Rebellious Lawyering is a model practice of law that warns against “the dangerous potential for disempowerment, cooptation, and re-inscription of inequality”
“Recent voices call for and envision a role for lawyers in social struggles, even as they remain cautious of engaging lawyers in community organizing efforts.
Proponents of what poverty law scholar Gerald López has famously called ‘rebellious lawyering,’ a model which is designed to eliminate some of the pitfalls of ‘regnant lawyering’ for social change, warn against the dangerous potential for disempowerment, cooptation, and re-inscription of inequality.
In many ways, the chief weapon that rebellious lawyering models provide is their knowledge of the potential harm that lawyering poses, which allows them to be alert to such dangers and consciously work against them.
Accordingly, rebellious lawyering models remain highly skeptical of lawyers’ roles and the risks that lawyers pose to community organizing and social change efforts. Cause lawyering literature suggests a greater fluidity of power. Many people use the law strategically for their own goals, including as a tool to challenge dominant identities and narratives and what the law condones as acceptable and possible.
Our relationship with the law and whether and how we should employ legal tools are under constant negotiation.”
Excerpted from Corey S. Shdaimah, LAWYERS AND THE POWER OF COMMUNITY: THE STORY OF SOUTH ARDMORE, 42 J. Marshall L. Rev. 595 (2009).
Corey S. Shdaimah is Associate Professor and Academic Coordinator for the MSW/JD Dual Degree Program at University of Maryland School of Social Work.
LLB, Tel Aviv University School of Law
LLM, University of Pennsylvania Law School
PhD, Bryn Mawr College
Her expertise and research interests include:
Street-based Sex Work
Court-Affiliated Prostitution Diversion Programs
Child Care Policy
Theory and practice knowledge