Publication Date

Summer 2015


This paper analyzes tensions within current models of partnership between law and organizing. It draws on the insight developed from recent projects to propose further development of “Law as Organizing” as a new synthesis in which social movement lawyers incorporate organizing principles and techniques into their practice. Part II traces the historical trajectory of public interest lawyering, leading from impact litigation, through rebellious lawyering, and into Law and Organizing. Part III focuses in on “Know Your Rights” trainings as a common site of collaboration between organizers and lawyers, in order to draw out the tension between litigation-oriented and organizing-oriented frameworks in law and organizing. This analysis is based on articles by prominent practi- tioners and theorists as well as on primary source research conducted by the author in 2012. Part III concludes by articulating the challenge presented to social movement lawyers seeking to address the contradictions in the partnership model. Part IV proposes moving away from the partnership model, and toward a synthesis between law and organizing. This approach draws on principles and techniques of organizers and popular educators, and thereby moves toward relationship-building over longer periods, and focuses on a problem as a socio-political question, not merely a discrete legal issue. The current examples of synthesis are analyzed with an eye toward ongoing tensions, and the potential benefits that may be found in such a synthesis.

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