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Webinar: Meaningful Youth Engagement in a Virtual Legal World
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When: Thursday, August 6, 2020
3:00-4:30 PM ET
Where: COVID-19 Webinar--open to members and nonmembers alike thanks to the Annie E. Casey Foundation
United States
Presenter: Shobha Lakshmi Mahadev, JD, Robert Latham, JD, Dani Townsend
Contact: Daniel Trujillo

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Quality legal representation for youth necessarily involves active solicitation, incorporation, and meaningful engagement of youth voice into decision-making. Youth engagement is particularly important in court proceedings. COVID-19 has transformed many attorney-client interactions into virtual events, including court hearings. Virtual attorney-client interactions create new challenges and complexities for attorneys’ abilities to meaningfully engage their clients, protect confidentiality, and amplify their voices.

This webinar will outline concrete tips and best practices for engaging youth in virtual interactions and hearings. Attendees will learn why being led by youth voice in legal decisions, particularly those made in the courtroom, is important and promotes stronger outcomes for youth and families. The presenters will also discuss key considerations for practitioners in preparing for and engaging in virtual meetings and hearings with youth, including privacy and confidentiality, how to navigate and help clients navigate different technology platforms, client counseling, and courtroom best practices.


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Shobha Lakshmi Mahadev, JD, Children and Family Justice Center, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

Robert Latham, JD, Children and Youth Clinic, University of Miami
Dani Townsend, former National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council Member

Shobha L. Mahadev is a Clinical Associate Professor of Law at the Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC) at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, where she teaches and supervises students working on cases and projects that involve youth in conflict with the law. Shobha also serves as the project director for the Illinois Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children, overseeing policy and litigation strategy with respect to advocating for fair laws for children and youth sentenced to life-without-parole and other lengthy sentences. Shobha has co-authored various amicus briefs, including briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court on the subject of the application of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment to children under the age of 18. Shobha was also the primary author of The Illinois Juvenile Defender Practice Notebook, a training manual for attorneys representing youth in court. Prior to joining the CFJC, Shobha was a litigation associate at a Chicago-based law firm and an Assistant Defender with the Office of the State Appellate Defender, First Judicial District, where she represented indigent clients convicted of criminal offenses on appeal and argued before the Illinois Appellate Court and Illinois Supreme Court.


Robert Latham is a Clinical Instructor & Practitioner-in-Residence at the University of Miami Children and Youth Law Clinic. In the clinic, he teaches students who handle cases involving abused, abandoned and neglected children in a variety of forums, including dependency and family courts, administrative hearings, and federal and appellate courts. Mr. Latham earned a B.S. in computer science and B.A. in linguistics from the University of Texas. He later received his J.D. cum laude from the University of Michigan (2007), where he participated as a student and a Dean's Fellow in the Michigan Child Advocacy Law Clinic. 

Dani Townsend is a former council member of the National Foster Care Youth and Alumni Policy Council. She currently works at Cunningham Children’s Home, a residential mental health treatment facility for children. She is currently working on her Bachelor’s in Social Work and Psychology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Dani has spent ten years in the Illinois child welfare system and has assisted in creating policy recommendations in homelessness, mental health, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, and others. She has also been a spokesperson at Mental Health of America, Children’s Defense Fund, and the National Association of Homelessness. Dani continues to strive for a voice for children in hoping to make a difference in her community.


This webinar is part of NACC’s ongoing series of responsive training measures to support attorney practice in the COVID-19 pandemic. The session is open to members AND non-members thanks to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.


Pending accreditation for 2 hours of CLE in Colorado. CLE approval in at least one state can streamline an attorney’s CLE application in another state. Check with your jurisdiction for details on simplified CLE applications and online/on-demand learning requirements. 

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