Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Cummings on Movement Lawyering

Movement Lawyering, an article by Scott L. Cummings, UCLA Law, to be published in the University of Illinois Law Review 12017(5), is now available in prepublication form.
This Article explores an important development in American legal  theory and practice over the past decade: the rise  of ‘‘movement  lawyering’’ as an alternative model  of public interest advocacy focused on building the power of non-elite constituencies through integrated  legal and political  strategies.  Its central goal is to explain why movement lawyering has gained  prominence, define its essential  features, and explore what it reveals about the current state of efforts to work out an empirically grounded and normatively appealing vision of the lawyer’s role in social change.  Toward that end,  this Article shows how movement lawyering has long been an important part of progressive legal practice–complicating the standard  historical  account–while  also  illuminating  the contemporary  political and professional shifts that have powered the recent social  movement turn.  Synthesizing  insights from social movement theory and practice, the article then defines and analyzes the core features of the movement  lawyering model–representing ‘‘mobilized clients’’ and deploying  ‘integrated advocacy’’–and explores  how these features respond to long-standing  critiques of  public interest advocacy by presenting movement  lawyers  at their most accountable and effective: taking instructions from activist  organizations in client-centered fashion and using law in politically sophisticated ways designed to maximize the potential for sustained social reform. In doing so, the new movement lawyering literature usefully refocuses attention on fundamental questions about the lawyer’s role in social change and thereby offers a crucial opportunity to jumpstart a contemporary dialogue–less freighted with the critical canon of the past and more rooted in empirical  inquiry–about  the  conditions in which  lawyering is most likely to produce accountable and effective democratic transformation.

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