The ‘Critical Lawyer’: The Rise of a New Generation of Legal Advocates

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Photo by Adam Quirk via Flickr

In the age of social media advocacy, with empowering grassroots groups like #MeToo and TIME’S UP, the nation is seeing more justice-oriented movements come together for social change.

Young and diverse lawyers are the forefront of this change, Professors Luz E. Herrer and Louise Trubek argue in their forthcoming law review to be published in the New York University Review of Law and Social Change.

The researchers cite Prof. Trubek. who coined the term “critical lawyers” in 1991, as  lawyers who sought “…to empower oppressed groups and individuals” and also focus on forging a path to achieve “a more just society.”

Their overall goal is to simply have an impact, and the authors of this study believe the criminal justice landscape is changing for these driven individuals to make the change they believe in.

Critical Lawyers are different in ways that defy the traditional lawyer archetype because of their backgrounds, gender, ethnicity, and race.

In 2015, 88 percent of lawyers were white, according to data cited in the article.

“Meanwhile, national projections for 2020 estimate that the nation’s non-white population will be no less than 20 percent,” the researchers continued.

And, according to another article cited in this research, “Law schools, however, now have a more diverse student population than they did a decade ago.”

The U.S. has never seen such diversity among lawyers, the authors wrote.

These “critical lawyers” tend to have more direct engagement with clients and communities, while utilizing a broad range of technologies.

One of those technologies is the internet.

Instagram, Twitter, and GoFund Me are integral in getting a movement’s agenda publicized.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the authors use as an example, “raised $24 million from a variety of donors in 2017” from various websites to support the in court representation of detained immigrants from Muslim countries at U.S. airports.

The #MeToo Movement created a safe space for individuals across the world to share their stories online with others to fight against sexual abuse or misconduct. Without Critical Lawyers and social advocates for justice, movements like this wouldn’t be possible, the authors explain.

“Critical lawyers are creating an architecture that leverages their expertise to help clients and communities advance their social justice missions,” the authors said.

Their practices differ from the traditional non-profit public interest firms of the earlier generation that assumed justice would result if there law and lawyers were accessible.

Professors Herrer and Louise Trubek believe this new way of viewing and interacting with the law, through demographic changes, social media, and advocacy, it “requires support from a variety of sources including law schools and peer support groups all of which enable the sharing of ideas and innovation.

Andrea Cipriano is a TCR staff writer.

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