Home » Artika R. Tyner and Rebellious Lawyering

Artika R. Tyner and Rebellious Lawyering

Artika R. Tyner has written on Jerry López’s Rebellious Lawyering as theory, ideology, and vision.  Dr. Tyner has also provided a case study of Jerry’s Center for Community Problem Solving, based in New York City.

“[Jerry López’s] Rebellious lawyering provides a theoretical framework for action research and fostering cooperative, collaborative processes. Rebellious lawyers’ vision of social justice requires proactiveness in effectuating social change by reflecting and ‘usher[ing] in the world we hope to create.’  In envisioning changing the world as we know it, one’s imagination can be unleashed.”

“The rebellious vision supports a concerted organized effort against subordination, based upon factors such as: race, gender,  socioeconomic status, and age.  Rebellious lawyers work diligently to ‘dismantle those social structures that reinforce hierarchy and injustice.’”

“[Jerry López’s] rebellious lawyering initiates and compels action. Community members and the rebellious lawyer work together to realize their vision of social change: communities they call their own. This demonstrates a shared responsibility to create change and enact ownership over the change process. Each is ‘standing shoulder to shoulder’ while engaging in problem-solving and community-building. Traditionally, law schools do not provide future lawyers with the tools to engage in this type of social justice lawyering. These tools include learning how to aid in building and sustaining coalitions, help imagine and orchestrate strategies for pursuing desired goals, understand the theoretical political frameworks that they challenge, and pursue visions of social justice.”

“Rebellious lawyering recognizes the ability of the rebellious lawyer and clients/communities to work together to realize a vision of equality and justice. Rebellious lawyering moves beyond working for a client to working collaboratively with a client and allies.”

“The ideology of rebellious lawyering is based upon the premise of fostering cooperative and collaborative processes. Rebellious lawyers integrate themselves and their clients into ‘a large network of cooperating problem-solvers.’ Traditionally, a lawyer is the sole problem solver who has the capacity and training to frame the issues and identify the legal problem. The lawyer serves as an expert who asks questions to confirm his/her course of action and maintain his/her power. To that end, traditional lawyering is non-participatory and isolated given that lawyers envision themselves as ‘self-perceived visionaries who make decisions for others by cutting themselves off from nearly all that surrounds them.’ Within this model of lawyering, community members and clients play a very limited role by simply allowing the lawyer to solely formulate solutions.”

“Contrary to the traditional role of lawyers as experts, López envisions rebellious lawyering as collaboration between co-eminent institutions and individuals where each learns from each other. Each participant in this process has the opportunity to learn and grow, in addition may offer a unique, diverse perspective in the problem solving process. The process of problem solving begins with storytelling because stories create a sense of a shared experience and enable us to live with a sense of solidarity. Stories are the framework for creating a social justice-oriented narrative since they aid in identifying the relevant audience, telling the story of a lived experience, and compelling others to act to bring forth the desired change.”

“Through storytelling, the diverse experience of collective subordination facilitates social change and creates shared space for ongoing dialogue. By sharing these stories, the lawyer and community seek to build key alliances and establish collaborative networks that challenge others to change the world to mirror the one they desire to see.”

“In this idea–what I call the rebellious idea of lawyering against subordination–lawyers must know how to work with (not just on behalf of) women, low-income people, people of color, gays and lesbians, the disabled, and the elderly. They must know how to collaborate with other professionals and lay allies rather than ignoring the help that these other problem-solvers may provide in a given situation. They must understand how to educate those with whom they work, particularly about law and professional lawyering, and, at the same time, they must open themselves up to being educated by all those with whom they come into contact, particularly about the traditions and experiences of life on the bottom and at the margins.”

“This perspective acknowledges the role of lawyer as a problem solver in partnership with communities to shape problem-solving around the community’s experiences and build shared knowledge.  It also recognizes the importance of working with other professionals to problem solve together and discover new ways for promoting social justice.”

“Based upon the principles of rebellious lawyering, López developed the Center for Community Problem Solving (‘Center’) in 2003. The Center partners with marginalized populations (immigrant, low income of color communities) to problem solve around issues with political, economic, social, health, and legal elements. The goal is to foster participatory democracy and equal citizenship. The Center draws together the strengths of problem solvers from all walks of life: business owners, service providers, teachers, artists, policy officials, lawyers, and doctors to develop practical solutions for problems facing the communities. The Center has the following key fundamental values:

(a) The Center seeks to collaborate with those who live and work in low-income communities, communities of color, and immigrant communities in order to share knowledge of how to address present challenges, identify resources, and develop useful strategies for change.

(b) The Center connects those with problems with service providers who can help to address these problems.

(c) When problems remain unaddressed after making the requisite connections outlined above, the Center seeks additional resources to fill this void.

(d) The Center monitors and evaluates progress in the problem solving phase.

(e) The Center shares information gathered from their program evaluation processes to aid in developing more effective strategies for exercising collective problem solving.”

“López’s rebellious lawyering theoretical framework challenges lawyers to engage in problem solving and foster community connections. This will aid in remedying social problems facing the community.”

Read Dr. Tyner’s article in its entirety, here: Artika R. Tyner, PLANTING PEOPLE, GROWING JUSTICE: THE THREE PILLARS OF NEW SOCIAL JUSTICE LAWYERING, 10 Hastings Race & Poverty L. J. 219 (2013).








Dr. Artika Tyner is the SSRC Emerging Scholar for January-March 2015.  SSRC, or Self-Sufficiency Research Clearinghouse, is an initiative of the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE), Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Tyner is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Leadership, Policy, & Administration at the University of Saint Thomas College of Education. Dr. Tyner previously served as Clinical Law Faculty for the University of St. Thomas School of Law, Community Justice Project. Dr. Tyner’s research focuses on social justice movements, organizational leadership, diversity, civil rights, and community development. She is an advisory board member of the Children’s Defense Fund-MN, a board member on the ABA Council for Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline, and was previously a board member of the HOPE Community Center. Dr. Tyner received her Ed.D. in Leadership from the University of Saint Thomas College of Education in 2012 and her J.D. from the same university in 2006.





%d bloggers like this: