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John W. Teeter, Jr. and Rebellious Lawyering

Rebellious Lawyering: “the unlikely metaphor of the lawyer as rebel”

“The Vision of ‘Rebellious Lawyering’: Although Gerald P. López, like [Duncan] Kennedy, uses the unlikely metaphor of the lawyer as rebel, his focus is far different.”

“López has emphasized the need to depaternalize the practice of law by working with clients to develop their own empowerment. López asserts: ‘The reorientation of a lawyer’s work most characteristic of today’s rebellious idea involves what I call ‘teaching self-help and lay lawyering.’”

“López’s vision has particular resonance in labor law, where many workers are unrepresented by counsel and even unions often rely on unlicensed advocates to handle arbitrations, negotiations, and other ‘legal’ matters. Furthermore, López can encourage students with the thought that many of the essential tools of lawyering—such as common sense—are not dependent on a formal degree, much less law review status at a top-tier school.”

“Such teaching entails the participation of lawyers in helping everyone (themselves included) to see that the skills they have already developed to cope with problems in everyday life can be used to solve less familiar problems—that their stock of stories and storytelling techniques may be extended beyond the world they know best. In particular, if people subordinated by political and social life can learn to recognize and value and extend their own problem-solving know-how, they (and others, not coincidentally) may gain confidence in their ability to handle situations that they would otherwise experience as utterly foreign and unmanageable, with or without a lawyer as representative. Helping people to see that they can identify, understand, and contribute to solving their own and others’ problems is one way of helping them gain more control over the life we share. By reorienting their practice around this view of problem-solving, [rebellious lawyers] hope to help those subordinated in this world to play an increasingly potent role in the struggle to shape our common social reality.”


Excerpted from John W. Teeter, Jr., INTO THE THICKET: PURSUING MORAL AND POLITICAL VISIONS IN LABOR LAW, 46 J. Legal Educ. 252 (1996).






John W. Teeter, Jr. is a Professor of Law at St. Mary’s School of Law.

He has published scholarly articles on labor law, Buddhism, and legal pedagogy as well as a series of poems.

B.A., 1982, University of Illinois at Chicago Circle
J.D., 1985, Harvard University, magna cum laude

Professor Teeter practiced law in Hawaii and Massachusetts and taught at the Oklahoma City University School of Law.

Recipient, St. Mary’s University Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Award



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