This week we talk with Corey Shdaimah, author of Negotiating Justice: Progressive Lawyering, Low-Income Clients, and the Quest for Social Change. Shdaimah examines how the themes central to progressive lawyering—autonomy, collaboration, transformation, and social change—look on the ground, in the legal services office. We discuss the ethnographic methods she used for this research, and how lawyers and clients navigate their relationships with one another.
socguy — October 16, 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed this interview--given my usual cynicism I rarely think of lawyers as doing social justice work and so it's nice to hear that there are people in this profession who still see it in these terms. In addition it's clear that even while the author endorses a social justice perspective, she still brings a critical perspective to the challenges of doing this work.
There's a familiar tension here of what it means to work for pragmatic solutions to daily issues faced by individuals clients, while also addressing the broader inequalities of societies, institutions and bureaucracies that shape these social problems. As the guest points out, one has to somewhat endorse certain norms and rules to make change within a system, even while implicitly accepting the danger of legitimizing broader injustices impacting clients. How one negotiates this, it seems, is a constant struggle for progressive lawyers.