Prior to 1969 a mere fifteen legal organizations devoted themselves to serving the causes of civil rights, civil liberties, and the needs of poor people. By 1975 that number had jumped to more than eighty.This "explosion" of explicitly activist lawyering marked a significant change in the composition of the American legal profession. More importantly, these lawyers shaped American social movements and politics in the era. Though it has long been understood that lawyers played a role in the upheavals in American society of the 1960s, no study has attempted to bring the many pieces together and set it within the historiography of the era. This dissertation thus sets the role of lawyers in a broad historical context, showing the ways in which the 1960s both shaped and were shaped by "cause" lawyering. In uncovering this history, the dissertation argues that one cannot simply understand "cause" lawyering as a single category of professional action. Rather, part of the struggle within the profession centered on the question of what type of cause lawyering was acceptable. Thanks to a variety of forces, both internal and external to the profession -- including social movements, philanthropic foundations, and changes in political alignment and philosophy -- lawyering that featured elite-led, court-based strategies thrived and survived while lawyering that deemphasized the importance of lawyers and litigation withered. Individual chapters explore the Supreme Court case of NAACP v. Button, lawyering during the direct action phase of the southern civil rights movement, the growth and collapse of the federally-funded Legal Services Program, radical lawyering and the anti-war movement, and the development of "public interest" lawyering for environmental, consumer, and government accountability causes.Hilbink has also posted a paper, based on an earlier, related work, entitled Filling the Void: The Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee and the 1964 Freedom Summer. Here is the abstract:
A history of the formation and work of the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee, an organization created to provide legal assistance to the Civil Rights Movement in 1964. The history relies heavily on interviews with those who formed the organization as well as volunteer lawyers who worked in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida in 1964 and 1965. The paper was a senior honors thesis in the Department of History at Columbia University, advised by Professor Alan Brinkley.