Keeping Sharp Your Cutting Edge


I appreciate being invited to speak here tonight about the Review of Law & Social Change and this theme of “Page to Practice.” Your focus speaks well of your determination to remain in the avant garde of social change writing for lawyers. But to be honest, I have to acknowledge that I am facing a couple of conundrums.

The first is that when it comes to Lawyers, Law, and Social Change, the article I wrote in 1984 envisioning a very limited role for lawyers, I am not sure that I have changed my mind a lot. I still don’t think much of lawyers. I said in 1984, and I still believe now, that it is organized people(those who have been organized into groups for taking action) that make social change, not lawyers-and if lawyers have anything to contribute to social change, it is by using their skills to help the social changers to organize.

My second problem is that I remain quite ambivalent when it comes to writing pages, even though I like to write a lot as a person and have written a lot as a lawyer. As a lawyer in general, I know that a lot of our job is to invent words to justify the infliction of pain, degradation, and death.Words allow humans to exploit and kill each other with greater ease and less guilt. Words at their worst have been used to justify a lot of obscene violence, including war, torture, executions, incarcerations, elimination of health, destruction of the environment, seizures of property, and more.

Suggested Reading

The Review is truly a bridge from page to practice because the ideas that come alive on its pages have blossomed into creative solutions that have been put into practice.