Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Fall 10-1-2016

Abstract

In his 1992 book Rebellious Lawyering: One Chicano’s Vision of Progressive Law Practice, Gerald Lopez disrupted the conventional understandings of what it meant to be an effective poverty lawyer or public interest attorney. His critiques and prescriptions were aimed at litigators and lawyers similarly engaged in struggles for social change. His book did not address the role of progressive transactional lawyers. Today, transactional lawyers working in underserved communities are far more common. This Essay seeks to apply Lopez’s critiques to the work of those practitioners.

I argue here that transactional legal services, or TLS, on behalf of subordinated clients achieves many of the aims of the Rebellious Lawyering project. I separate TLS on behalf of individual entrepreneurs from a more collective TLS on behalf of community or worker groups. For practitioners working with entrepreneurs, the Essay observes that client power, control, and autonomy are more readily achieved, albeit through what Lopez might describe as quite regnant practices. Those practices, I argue, are fully justified in this context.

What TLS for entrepreneurs does not accomplish, though, is community mobilization, a downside that is regrettable but not a reason to eschew that kind of work. Collective TLS provides all of the upsides of entrepreneurial TLS while not sacrificing mobilization goals. That version of TLS, though, does present two of its own challenges, one triggered by the complexity and sophistication of the legal issues involved in many community economic development projects, and the second resulting from the nature of group representation.