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He files child abuse lawsuits – and wants other lawyers trained to do it, too

Attorney Jeff Anderson gave Mitchell Hamline School of Law $2 million to launch it.

Jeff Anderson has built a national reputation by filing lawsuits on behalf of child sex abuse survivors. He's sued the Catholic Archdiocese of the Twin Cities, the founder of the Children's Theater Company, and others in hopes that holding abusers accountable can help survivors heal.

The St. Paul lawyer's been doing it for more than three decades, though, and he won't be around forever. 

To help make sure the cause he advocates for stays strong, Anderson has now given a Twin Cities law school $2 million to launch a project to give attorneys specialized training in the field.

Jeff Anderson & Associates announced the gift together with Mitchell Hamline School of Law last week. 

They say the project can make Mitchell Hamline a leader in training future lawyers and other professionals to recognize, respond to, and prevent child abuse. 

The Zero Abuse Project

Anderson envisions a time when there won't be a need for legal firms like his. 

“We believe child abuse can end and the Zero Abuse Project is pivotal to this mission," Anderson said in announcing his gift. "Our law firm is making this commitment in the hopes that people don’t need to contact us in the future. This is just the beginning.” 

Mitchell Hamline says the Zero Abuse Project will include a child advocacy clinic where faculty, students, and volunteer lawyers will work on child abuse cases, do research, and suggest policy changes, in addition to developing and teaching classes.

'The programming ... has not been there'

Anderson graduated from William Mitchell College of Law back in 1975, long before its recent merger with Hamline University's law school. 

He's still very active in representing abuse survivors. On Tuesday he announced settlements in 17 sex abuse cases involving monks at St. John's Abbey and he'll be in court Wednesday challenging the Diocese of Crookston. 

His cases have drawn widespread attention and prompted changes. But it doesn't seem like there's a clear path for prospective lawyers who want to take up the same kind of work. 

“I think you find a lot of people who are very moved by the stories they read about child abuse who would really like to be part of a solution,” Mitchell Hamline law school dean Mark Gordon told the Pioneer Press. “But the programming just traditionally has not been there at law schools for students who want to develop a career in this area.”

In Mitchell Hamline's statement, Gordon said the law school "is thrilled and delighted to be able to expand its child protection efforts" through the Zero Abuse Project. 

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