Article Title

Movement Lawyering

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

27 Indiana J. Global Legal Studies 87 (2020)


This article examines the relation between movement lawyering and American legal theory, explores the meaning and content of movement lawyering in the contemporary American context, and reflects on the implications of movement lawyering for the theory and practice of access to justice around the globe. It suggests that the rise of movement lawyering signals frustration with process-oriented solutions to fundamental problems of inequality and discrimination in the legal system, and challenges access to justice proponents to frame their work in connection with a political strategy that builds on movements for progressive legal change. In this sense, the article suggests that movement lawyering offers occasion for hope: a sign of ambition among a generation of lawyers eager to strengthen alliances with marginalized communities in the pursuit of a transformative social vision that reclaims government from the clutches of neoliberalism and nativism, while crafting a progressive vision of social justice that attends to, but moves beyond, access to legal knowledge, dispute resolution, lawyers, and courts. In the end, the real promise of movement lawyering may thus be in repowering a contemporary dialogue-less freighted by the critical debates of the past-in which scholars and practitioners can create a new account, more rooted in sustained empirical inquiry, of the conditions in which lawyers may align with social movements to challenge the ravages of inequality in the United States and other liberal democracies.