Alumni Short

Beth Lyon to Direct Groundbreaking Farmworker Legal Assistance Clinic

Ithaca, NEW YORK, Jul 14, 2015

This summer, Cornell Law School welcomes new clinical faculty member Beth Lyon, and with her, a groundbreaking new course. Lyon is the founder of Cornell’s Farmworker Legal Assistance Clinic, one of the only legal clinics in America to provide assistance to farm workers and one of the first to serve rural immigrant communities.

“I'm thrilled to be joining the Cornell Law School community for this new initiative,” says Lyon. “Farmworkers are among the most vulnerable and subordinated people in our society, and Cornell Law School’s location and resources situate Farmworker Clinic students to provide excellent representation.”

Lyon is a national authority on the laws and policies affecting immigrant workers. She has written extensively on domestic and international immigrant and farm worker rights. Her publications are widely cited in academic and practitioner publications, and she has been quoted in various news media outlets. She is also a frequent speaker and panelist for academic and bar association conferences, addressing both policy questions and practical issues of lawyering through interpreters and providing legal services to rural minorities.

Lyon’s Farmworker Legal Assistance Clinic was made possible in part through support from an Engaged Curriculum grant from Engaged Cornell. Lyon was joined by Professors John Blume, Sheri Johnson, and Gerald Torres in applying for the grant, which will support the development of curriculum that will enrich the student learning experience in the legal clinic.

The clinic will serve workers in one of the world’s most difficult and dangerous occupations. Farmworkers experience geographic, linguistic, and cultural isolation, separation from family, immigration insecurity reinforced by policing practices, workplace sexual violence, and exclusion from protective employment laws. Working with the new clinic's community partners, student attorneys will handle immigration and employment matters on behalf of farmworkers in the region, work that will typically involve negotiation and often require litigation.

“In the months before opening the clinic, the response has been tremendous, with activists and community members throughout the region reaching out to ask for our collaboration on different cases,” says Lyon. “I’m looking forward to working with the students, who will be charting the new clinic’s identity as a legal service provider and developing an entrepreneurial approach to practice. I'm also excited to join the Cornell Law School clinical program, with top practitioners in areas of the law that will inform the new clinic's work.”

Beth Lyon previously taught as a professor of law at Villanova Law School, where she was the founding director of the school’s Farmworker Legal Aid Clinic and co-director of its Community Interpreter Internship Program. Prior to that, she was a staff attorney for Human Rights First, a consultant at the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions, and the recipient of a three-year teaching fellowship at the International Human Rights Clinic at Washington College of Law, American University.

She chairs the Human Rights Committee of the Society of American Law Teachers Board of Directors and is praxis coordinator for the Steering Committee of the Board of Directors of Latina & Latino Critical Theory. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Global Workers Justice Alliance, a non-profit agency that trains and assists advocates whose clients have returned to Mexico and Guatemala. She was a member of the 2010-2012 Advisory Group of the American Bar Association Language Access Standards Project.