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Negotiating Justice

Negotiating Justice: Progressive Lawyering, Low-Income Clients, and the Quest for Social Change

Corey S. Shdaimah
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 242
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  • Book Info
    Negotiating Justice
    Book Description:

    While many young people become lawyers for the big bucks, others are motivated by the pursuit of social justice, seeking to help people for whom legal services are financially, socially, or politically inaccessible. These progressive lawyers often bring a considerable degree of idealism to their work, and many leave the field due to insurmountable red tape and spiraling disillusionment. But what about those who stay? And what do their clients think? Negotiating Justice explores how progressive lawyers and their clients negotiate the dissonance between personal idealism and the realities of a system that doesn't often champion the rights of the poor.Corey S. Shdaimah draws on over fifty interviews with urban legal service lawyers and their clients to provide readers with a compelling behind-the-scenes look at how different notions of practice can present significant barriers for both clients and lawyers working with limited resources, often within a legal system that many view as fundamentally unequal or hostile. Through consideration of the central themes of progressive lawyering - autonomy, collaboration, transformation, and social change - Shdaimah presents a subtle and complex tableau of the concessions both lawyers and clients often have to make as they navigate the murky and resistant terrains of the legal system and their wider pursuits of justice and power.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8670-3
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface: The Master’s Tools
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. 1 Clients and Lawyers
    (pp. 1-16)

    A one-page flyer, written in both English and Spanish, distributed by Northeast Legal Services (NELS), opens with a heading in large print: “Do you have a LEGAL problem or question?We want to help you!” NELS is a nonprofit legal services organization with a centrally located main office and one neighborhood branch office serving a large urban center. Its flyer offers assistance for questions as well as problems. It does, however, require that clients understand their problem to be a legal one, and might deter those who are unsure if their case meets this criterion (see chapter 4). This flyer,...

  6. 2 Why Talk to Clients and Lawyers? A Grounded Interpretivist Framework
    (pp. 17-34)

    Broadly generalized, there are two strains of literature on legal services lawyers. One strain takes an explicitly normative stance regarding what outcomes, relationships, or processes are “good.” Scholarship in this genre provides advice about how legal services lawyers should act in order to optimize the assistance they provide to their clients. They advise on everything from choosing cases and clients from disparate community interests to empowering clients and avoiding paternalism. Such literature is not purely instrumental, as much of it provides a rationale for the underlying values promoted. These authors share the espousal of value-based practice, even when they are...

  7. 3 Working for Social Justice in an Unjust System
    (pp. 35-66)

    All of the lawyers in this study shared a commitment to social change. Many were troubled by how their commitment has played out in work with clients over the course of their careers, particularly in the conservative political climate of the 1990s and the early twenty-first century that is at best apathetic and at worst hostile to poor people’s claims. Clients were less direct in their discussion of social justice. While most felt dissatisfaction with the “system,” they (understandably) focused on their immediate needs. Although their narratives reveal visions of a more equitable legal system, these are often clouded by...

  8. 4 Did Someone Say Autonomy?
    (pp. 67-98)

    Autonomy is both a value and a goal espoused by most theories of progressive lawyering, which are rooted in the presumption that most clients are competent and entitled to make informed decisions. Progressive lawyering literature calls for attorneys to practice in ways that foster rather than impede client autonomy. Indeed, autonomy often is seen as a component of respect for clients. It is also an expression and affirmation of the belief that clients and lawyers are equals, a form of resistance that seeks to challenge dominant notions of the hierarchical relationship between lawyers and clients, particularly between low-income clients and...

  9. 5 Collaboration
    (pp. 99-130)

    The previous chapter focused on the value of client autonomy. This chapter examines a technique of lawyering that has been called “collaborative lawyering,” which is in many ways closely tied to notions of autonomy. Collaborative lawyering models portray lawyers and clients as “co-eminent problem solvers.”¹ This term is rooted in a belief that both lawyers and clients can and should contribute knowledge and skills to the relationship, and that clients should make decisions and take actions. In this chapter, I briefly examine the basis for collaborative lawyering and advocate adoption of a broad definition of collaboration. Relying on that definition,...

  10. 6 Lawyer and Client: Face to Face
    (pp. 131-162)

    Progressive lawyering literature stresses the importance of focusing on clients. The basis for client-centeredness is respect for clients, client autonomy, and decision making. Legal services lawyers and clients in this study reveal a complex foundation for a practice centered on the individual client: the often transformative nature of the client-lawyer relationship for both client and lawyer. This takes place when lawyer and client open themselves to each other, even within the limited context of their legal services relationship. Beyond the material assistance clients seek from NELS, empathy, respect, and a feeling of connection are deeply powerful and affirming for people...

  11. 7 Progressive Lawyering and the Ethic of Risk
    (pp. 163-174)

    Theorists of progressive lawyering, critical and otherwise, tell lawyers how to act. They set out guidelines that assume client goals and desires and attempt to mold client behavior. Underlying such advice is the presumption that observers of public interest lawyering know better than lawyers and clients engaged in practice about everything from the nature of the client-professional relationship to the goals they should pursue and their chances of achieving them. Drawing on Paul Ricoeur’s hermeneutic of suspicion, Paul Schiff Berman has pointed to some of the dangers of the almost exclusively critical focus of sociolegal and critical scholarship about progressive...

  12. APPENDIX A Supplemental Methods
    (pp. 175-180)
    (pp. 181-182)
  14. APPENDIX C Lawyer Informed Consent Form
    (pp. 183-184)
  15. APPENDIX D Referral Consent Form
    (pp. 185-185)
  16. APPENDIX E Client Informed Consent Form
    (pp. 186-187)
  17. APPENDIX F Client Interview Guide
    (pp. 188-190)
  18. APPENDIX G Lawyer Interview Guide
    (pp. 191-194)
  19. APPENDIX H List of Codes
    (pp. 195-198)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 199-210)
  21. References
    (pp. 211-220)
  22. Index
    (pp. 221-224)
  23. About the Author
    (pp. 225-225)