“I was invisible again, and I stayed invisible, burying myself in drugs and alcohol as [my lawyers] made history in my name.”
Norma McCorvey, plaintiff in Roe v. Wade
Behind every “landmark” or “ground-breaking” human rights case, you will usually find claimants (the parties taking the case), their lawyers, and a broader movement that supports the cause.
Ideally, the claimants and the movement will include those who are most directly impacted by the issues being considered by the court. They are the ones best placed to articulate the solution to the issue, and to identify how justice can be achieved. Accordingly, they should be the ones leading and giving direction in the litigation, with lawyers helping and supporting them so they can use the law to build their power and reach their goals.
“Sustainable social change occurs when directly-impacted individuals take collective action, lead their own struggles, and gain power to change the conditions of oppression”
Purvi Shah, Movement Law Lab
Nonetheless, this is far from the norm when it comes to human rights litigation. When litigating NGOs and lawyers take human rights cases, there is a tendency to revert to traditional and elitist models of lawyering that glorify legal expertise and see lawyers drive the litigation agenda.
Human rights lawyering, after all, takes place within a more general legal culture and profession that maintains the status quo and disenfranchises many whose rights and interests are at stake in the cases that are brought. The legal profession has a “lawyer’s privilege” and “white supremacy” problem, which also infects litigation efforts that push for social change.
Nevertheless, individuals who have legal knowledge, expertise and practice are key to accessing the law, the courts, and opportunities for justice. Communities, groups, and movements who experience digital injustice and oppression need access to and help from these individuals in their fight for change. Crucially, however, they need access to lawyers who can engage in radical solidarity and partnership with them, rather than lawyers who engage in traditional models of lawyering.
“Radical change only comes about by working with people; it is never the result of working for people.”
William P. Quigley, law professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans
DFF would like to support litigators working on digital rights issues to build their capacity to engage in movement and community lawyering practices by organising a 1.5 day training workshop in London on 11 & 12 July 2022.
During the workshop, we will explore how lawyers working on digital rights issues can be part of groups and movements and develop relationships that are built on solidarity, community and liberation. We will also reflect on the important role that community and movement lawyering can play in challenging digital rights violations and in pushing for a society that protects and promotes digital rights for all.
There are limited spaces available at the workshop, and places will be filled on a first-come-first-served basis. The workshop is open to lawyers working on digital rights issues in Europe. To secure a place at the workshop we ask that you write to us with a brief description of the digital rights legal work you are currently engaged in, and a short explanation of why movement and community lawyering is of interest to you. Please write to us to apply at with “Community and Movement Lawyering” in the subject line. If you are interested, but are unsure you can make the dates above, please do still reach out to us. We want to hear from you.
Mor details regarding this event can be found here.