The Emerging Legal Architecture for Social Justice



Lawyers advocating for social change are now front and center in newspapers and social media. This Article discusses how a new breed of progressive lawyers envision social justice law practice today. These lawyers, who we refer to as ‘critical lawyers,’ are diverse in background, gender, ethnicity and race. They see law as a complex, contradictory tool rather than a necessary and sufficient route to justice. Their practices differ from the traditional nonprofit public interest firms of the earlier generation that assumed that making law and lawyers accessible would lead to justice. To highlight the differences, the Article discusses the law practices of Beyond Legal Aid, Law for Black Lives, and TIME’s UP. Beyond Legal Aid is redesigning legal services to produce community partnerships. Law for Black Lives provides legal services to ensure greater equity in criminal procedures. TIME’s UP is radically revising how women respond to sexual harassment at the workplace. These practices seek to democratize the use of law to advance social justice by developing community and client collaborations. They rely on revenue from many sources including client fees, small donations through on-line platforms, and volunteer expertise. They seek to develop structures that can provide sustainability, flexibility, and growth including nodes and networks models that allow linkages across varied practice sites. This new architecture requires support from a variety of sources, including law schools and peer support groups— all of which enable the sharing of ideas and innovations.

Suggested Reading