This article analyzes two questions that are raised by Professor Yamamoto's provocative article. Part I argues that any significant transformation of the social structure of United States society is far more likely to occur through mass political movements than through litigation. Consequently, advocates of social change, especially those trained in law, should not expect too much reform from the courtrooms. They instead should consider how traditional legal action might complement and encourage-not replace-community activism and political involvement. Put simply, an exclusive focus on litigation will not accomplish fully the desired objective. Part II contends that attorneys' ethical duties to their clients limit lawyers' ability to shape the world in the ways they see fit. The constraints increase considerably after the attorney agrees to represent the client. At that point, she must zealously pursue the case in a way that furthers the client's best interests. The attorney primarily must represent the client, although she does have control over how to conduct that representation and may be able to shape the client's case in important ways. Combining these two points, I contend that the potential for social change through litigation is limited, and that the discretion of attorneys to promote change through traditional legal remedies is similarly constrained. Consequently, visionaries advocating social change must look well beyond these limited horizons.
Kevin R. Johnson,
Lawyering for Social Change: What's a Lawyer to Do?,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol5/iss1/9