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Course Details

Law, Lawyering, and Social Movements (Akbar)

Fall 2023   LAW 714-001  

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Additional Information
Satisfies Senior Writing Requirement



Class meets in person.

Course Continuity
Students are encouraged to stay home if you are ill or experience flu-like symptoms. If you miss a class for any reason, it is still your responsibility to make up the work missed.

I offer the following to students who miss class due to illness:

- Class sessions are regularly recorded. If you are absent due to illness or some other unavoidable circumstance, email me and I can send you an email with instructions for accessing the recording for the class session(s) you missed.

Meeting Times/Location
MW 1:30PM - 2:50PM
Tanenbaum Hall 112



Law and Social Movements

Professor Amna Akbar

In this course, we will examine the visions, strategies, tactics, and practices of social movements, and approaches to movement lawyering. We will focus on contemporary and historical examples of social movements, including the long civil rights movement and contemporary abolitionist, socialist, Indigenous, and environmental justice organizing. We will situate movement and community lawyering within public interest lawyering more broadly, and study the conservative legal movement.

We will take seriously social movements, their diagnosis of the problems with society and the world at large, and their imaginations for a different world. As we do so, we will pay attention to the connections these movements forge about race, gender, class, capitalism, (neo)liberalism, imperialism, and history, as we attend to the possibilities of lawyering for political, economic, social transformation. We will explore the contradictory quality of law as a tool for progressive change: while lawyers and legal strategies may bolster particular campaigns, law and lawyers often undermine dissent and organizing. The conservative status-quo-serving aspects of law and the profession, and the broad social transformation that movements work toward, create a fundamental tension for lawyers seeking to work alongside progressive to left social movements fighting for power and transformation.

This is a discussion-based course. There will be no exam and lecturing will be minimal. Students will work in pairs and teams throughout the semester for assignments and in-class exercises, including teeing up questions for class discussion. Assignments will include short reading reflections as well as a personal political autobiography (an assignment inspired by the way Professors Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres taught a version of this course years ago). Students will also write about and present a current or past social movement campaign of their choice.