Lights, Camera, Action...

From left to right: Joel Shambaugh, Kayla DePalma and Maria Kargbo sitting in front of a flyer for the Reverse RideAlong film
From left to right: Joel Shambaugh, Kayla DePalma and Maria Kargbo sitting in front of a flyer for the Reverse RideAlong film

As with many business startup clients, CWRU Law School’s Community Development Clinic’s representation of social capitalist Joe Black began with a straightforward request: “Can you help me form a nonprofit organization?”

Black is a driving force behind a program with an innovative approach to connecting police officers, medical professionals and others who work in Cleveland neighborhoods with leaders and residents from those neighborhoods. It’s called The Reverse RideAlong. Switching the conventional model in which community members ‘ride along’ in a police cruiser to understand what an officer experiences, The Reverse RideAlong takes social service providers like police cadets into the community to better understand the assets and vitality of the community through the perspective of residents from the neighborhood. It can be a transformational experience for everyone involved.

As is also often the case with startup clients, this representation has turned into much more than just forming an organization. The Reverse RideAlong is the subject of a soon-to-be-released documentary film and Joe asked the CDC for help on a number of related legal issues. CWRU third-year law students Kayla DePalma, Maria Kargbo and Joel Shambaugh have drafted consent and release forms for those who appear in the documentary, advised the client on an array of legal strategies for securing copyright permissions and prepared a film production contract. 

Beyond the legal tasks, Shambaugh said “the most significant thing I have learned from this representation is how to quickly adapt to new and challenging problems while embracing the learning process of being an attorney.” In so doing, the team has drawn a lot of inspiration from their client.

"What I’ve enjoyed the most," Kargbo said, "is knowing that I am helping a client do amazing work that is reshaping community relations and bringing people together in a way I haven’t seen before.”

DePalma added: “It has been incredible learning about community development from someone as passionate and remarkable as Joe.”

The Reverse RideAlong documentary will premiere on Saturday, Feb. 10, at Cuyahoga Community College (Metropolitan Campus) as part of the Film Forward Documentary Series of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission. It is free and open to the public. Registration is encouraged but not required.