Home » Influence of Rebellious Lawyering on Law Practice and Pedagogy – Part 6 – Melissa Harrison, Margaret E. Montoya, Corey S. Shdaimah, Lauren Carasik, and Matthew Diller

Influence of Rebellious Lawyering on Law Practice and Pedagogy – Part 6 – Melissa Harrison, Margaret E. Montoya, Corey S. Shdaimah, Lauren Carasik, and Matthew Diller

Excerpted from Melissa Harrison and Margaret E. Montoya, VOICES/VOCES IN THE BORDERLANDS: A COLLOQUY ON RE/CONSTRUCTING IDENTITIES IN RE/CONSTRUCTED LEGAL SPACES, 6 Colum. J. Gender & L. 387 (1996):


“We find the concept of borderlands useful in thinking about essentialism and anti-essentialism because the very concept challenges the idea of a single perspective….”


“Slow-motion reading and listening are necessary because messages and stories are multi-layered.”


“Slow-motion reading with an appreciation for the polylingualism of language is only one technique to attenuate our cultural dyslexia.”


“Tara taught me with her insightful observations about staff dynamics, legal strategies, and with her discussions about power, privilege and their evanescent presence. She was an adept interpreter of silence, of gesture.”


“The borderlands encourages us to experience a ‘bilingual, bicultural, biconceptual reality.’ Awareness of the borderlands enables us to make critical linkages between our own stories and the stories of cultural others.”


“We also offer the borderlands as a trope for understanding the process of rendering oneself vulnerable but open to opposing perspectives, new voices, and different worlds.”


“We have utilized the notion of the border to propose new ways of thinking about and teaching about a culturally diverse society where law students must be adept at interacting with a wide range of clients, peers, and present and future colleagues.”


“We have described the borderlands as a place of tension and anxiety but also as a place of exhilaration and creativity.”


“Cross-cultural learning is possible only in tandem with others. It is a journey that cannot be taken alone. The borderlands are places of collaboration, of interactivity, of shared as well as opposing values, of exposed and juxtaposed weaknesses, and of ignorance, unmasked and remasked. Borderlands beckon to risk takers, meaning awakers, and vision makers.”




Excerpted from Corey S. Shdaimah, LAWYERS AND THE POWER OF COMMUNITY: THE STORY OF SOUTH ARDMORE, 42 J. Marshall L. Rev. 595 (2009):

“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.”






“The conception and behavior of lawyers as domineering experts has been frequently assailed….


In rallying attorneys to challenge the traditional model of attorney omnipotence and client subordination, Gerald Lopez championed ‘rebellious lawyering.’ Lopez encouraged lawyers to discard the model of lawyering he characterizes as ‘regnant’ and adopt a more empowering dynamic that encompasses a community-based approach to reform. Many others echo the call for community-based lawyering.”





Excepted from Matthew Diller, POVERTY LAWYERING IN THE GOLDEN AGE, 93 Mich. L. Rev. 1401 (1995):


“[T]he distinction that Gerald Lopez has drawn between ‘regnant’ lawyering and ‘rebellious’ lawyering…. Lopez identifies regnant lawyers as those who ‘consider themselves the preeminent problem solvers’ and who believe that lawyers should assume leadership in campaigns on behalf of the disempowered. In contrast, the rebellious lawyer works at the grass-roots level and collaborates with disempowered individuals and groups to assist them in mobilizing to improve their own lives. “


“Lopez concludes that regnant lawyering is not only inferior to rebellious lawyering but harmful to those it seeks to serve: ‘[B]reaking away from the regnant idea presents a central challenge for all those engaged in the modern struggle against subordination.’ He further explains that regnant lawyering ‘helps undermine the very possibility for re-imagined social arrangements that lies at the heart of any serious effort to take on the status-quo.’”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: