Social Change Lawyering | L4539

This seminar will explore the role of law and the legal profession in pursuing broader social causes across the political spectrum, such as the pursuit of civil rights for racial minorities or the effort to overturn the constitutional right to abortion. Distinguished from the practice of law solely advocating the interests of individual clients, social change lawyering is a major component of the legal profession of the 21st century. Known variously as “public interest law,” cause lawyering, and by numerous other labels, this area of practice implicates many important issues worthy of serious scholarly consideration.

Some of the topics that may be examined include: the competing definitions of social change lawyering and the relevance of such definitions; the history of American law and social change; the role of progressive/conservative ideologies in social change lawyering; the role of government and private firm lawyers in effectuating social change; strategies and organizational models for social change lawyering groups; the relationship between social change lawyers and their clients; the economics and financing of social change lawyering; ethics and social change lawyering; legal education and social change. Throughout the course, students will be asked to critically examine the role of lawyers in social change, and question whether and how lawyers have been effective agents of social change in American society.

The course will not use a traditional casebook. Rather, students will study a set of materials comprised of excerpts from law review articles and books, historical and sociological materials, and problems. Students will be required to write short, reflective discussion board posts on each week’s readings, as well as a more comprehensive final paper. (Students may elect to use this seminar to fulfill the upper level writing requirement if they submit a draft of the final paper and do a substantial rewrite after receiving the instructor’s feedback).

Obtaining Instructor’s Permission

For Fall 2019, please submit the below by April 12, 2019.

For any student who is interested in enrolling in this seminar, please email Professor Freeman ( a brief statement (one or two paragraphs at most) indicating why you are interested in the subject matter of the course and describing any relevant experience, background, and/or future career plans, if any, that relate to social change lawyering practice (but if you don’t have any, please still tell Professor Freeman why you are interested in the course). Students of all political ideologies are welcome, and encouraged, to submit applications. Enrollment is limited to 15 students.

Prerequisites: N/A
Credit Hours: 2

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