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A Critical Reflection on Law and Organizing

  • Author(s): Cummings, Scott
  • Eagly, Ingrid
  • et al.

Over the last decade, poverty law scholars and practitioners have engaged in a lively debate about the relationship between law and social change. What has emerged from this dialogue is a new community-based approach to progressive law¬yering that combines legal advocacy and grassroots action in a form of practice that this Article terms “law and organizing.” The law and organizing model privileges movement politics over law reform efforts and suggests that lawyers should facilitate community mobilization rather than practice in the conventional mode. In the academy, this model has attracted heightened attention from legal scholars dissatisfied with the potential of litigation efforts to produce meaningful social change. On the ground, lawyers have deployed organizing tactics to achieve significant gains for marginalized communities. Yet, although it holds out rich possibilities, the law and organizing paradigm is still largely untested as a practical strategy and has not been subjected to close academic scrutiny. This Article initiates a critical reflection on law and organizing by providing a historical account of its evolution, examining how poverty lawyers are incorporating organizing into their day-to-day practice, and analyzing some of the structural, practical, and ethical issues posed by this new approach.

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