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Rebellious Lawyering and Alicia Alvarez

Alicia Alvarez on Gerald P. López’s Rebellious Lawyering: “lawyers ‘must know how to collaborate with other professional and lay allies’” and “‘open ourselves to being educated by the subordinated . . . about their traditions and experiences.’”


“Within the idea of ‘rebellious lawyering against subordination,’ lawyers ‘must know how to collaborate with other professional and lay allies.’ We ‘must understand how to educate those with whom [we] work about law and professional lawyering’ and ‘[we] must open ourselves to being educated by the subordinated . . . about their traditions and experiences.’ Lawyers need to be able to work with legal and non-legal approaches to problems; they must participate in–as well as build–coalitions. This form of lawyering contrasts with the regnant idea of lawyering, where lawyers formally represent clients, by working alone for them in a relationship where the lawyers dominate and the clients are only present when absolutely necessary. In the regnant model, lawyers work in isolation of ‘the know-how and problem solving sensibilities of others.’ The regnant lawyer equates what she does best and feels most comfortable doing, ‘with what most helps the politically and socially subordinated.’ As a result, social disputes are often resolved by litigation, regardless of whether some other strategy might make more sense.”

“Lawyers interested in working with community members more closely are drawn to community development as a lawyering strategy that seeks greater collaboration with client groups. Some see work with community organizations as allowing for the possibility of community empowerment. ‘The purpose of empowerment lawyering . . . is to enable a group to gain control of the forces which affect their lives.’ This type of work gives the lawyer the potential to join–rather than lead–the persons represented.”

Cited from Alicia Alvarez, COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CLINICS: WHAT DOES POVERTY HAVE TO DO WITH THEM?, 34 Fordham Urb. L.J. 1269 (2007).

Prof. Alicia Alvarez is a clinical professor of law and director of the Community and Economic Development Clinic, where she specializes in issues affecting nonprofit and community-based organizations. Her area of interest is economic justice. She also has taught in the Michigan Clinical Law Program, where she focused on employment law. Prior to teaching at the Law School, Prof. Alvarez founded and directed the Community Development Clinic at DePaul University College of Law. She also taught in the Asylum and Immigration Clinic and the Civil Litigation Clinic. Alvarez has been a visiting professor at the University of Valencia and at Boston College Law School and was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of El Salvador. She has consulted with clinics throughout Latin America. She serves on the executive committee of the Section on Clinical Legal Education of the Association of American Law Schools and chairs the AALS Membership Review Committee. She served on the AALS Nominating Committee for 2012 Officers and Members of the Executive Committee; on the ABA Clinical Skills Committee; and on the board of directors of the Society of American Law Teachers. Prof. Alvarez is the coauthor (with Paul R. Tremblay) of Introduction to Transactional Lawyering Practice (West, 2013). Before teaching she was a staff attorney at Business and Professional People for the Public Interest and the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago.

Prof. Alvarez received her BA, magna cum laude, from Loyola University of Chicago and her JD, cum laude, from Boston College Law School.


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