This article explores an important development in American legal theory and practice over the past decade: the rise of “movement lawyering” as an alternative model of public interest advocacy focused on building the power of nonelite constituencies through integrated legal and political strategies. This article’s central goal is to explain why movement lawyering has gained prominence, define its essential features, and explore what it reveals about the current state of efforts to work out an empirically grounded and normatively appealing vision of the lawyer’s role in social change. Toward that end, this article shows how movement lawyering has long been an important part of progressive legal practice in the United States—which complicates the standard historical account—while also illuminating the contemporary political and professional shifts that have powered the recent social movement turn. This article synthesizes insights from social movement theory and practice, then defines and analyzes the core features of the movement lawyering model—representing “mobilized clients” and deploying “integrated advocacy”—and explores how these features respond to long-standing critiques of public interest advocacy by presenting movement lawyers at their most accountable and effective: taking instructions from activist organizations in client-centered fashion and using law in politically sophisticated ways designed to maximize the potential for sustained social reform. Using the American case as a window into a broader phenomenon, this article seeks to rethink what it means to pursue “justice” in liberal democracies marked by the rise of extreme inequality.


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pp. 87-130
Launched on MUSE
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