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From 'The Art of War' to 'Being Peace': Mindfulness and Community Lawyering in a Neoliberal Age


Angela P. Harris


University of California, Davis - King Hall School of Law

Jeffrey Selbin


University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Margaretta Lin


Community Economic Justice Practice, East Bay Community Law Center


California Law Review, Vol. 95, p. 2073, 2007
NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper No. 08/09-1

Abstract:     
Through a case study and lawyer narrative describing the role of the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) in a housing development struggle in West Oakland, California, this Article explores the intersection of the practice of community lawyering with the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a practice that cultivates the conscious interplay between the interior world of self and the outer world of relationships. A small literature on law and mindfulness has emerged, in which mindfulness is prescribed both as a palliative for an ailing profession and a model for increased attentiveness to the needs of clients. This Article suggests that mindfulness is also relevant to the practice of advocating for community economic justice.

Part I describes the implications for Oakland of the shift in the U.S. political economy to a post-industrial, neoliberal regime. Part II describes EBCLC's Community Economic Justice practice. Part III provides a case study of a struggle in which private developers, local residents and city officials squared off over the nature and implications of the largest market-rate housing development so far in the history of West Oakland. Through a first-person narrative, lead attorney Margaretta Lin reflects on the lessons of this struggle through the lens of mindfulness.

Part IV offers a tentative theory on the practice of mindful lawyering. We suggest that mindfulness can be more than a self-help practice for the legal profession. Mindfulness can help community lawyers balance a central tension in their work: how best to advocate on behalf of subordinated and disenfranchised communities within the existing political economy while holding fast to a vision of civic life that is more diverse, transparent and participatory.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 61

Keywords: lawyering, social justice, mindfulness, clinical, community economic development

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Date posted: October 23, 2007 ; Last revised: November 2, 2009

Suggested Citation

Harris, Angela P. and Selbin, Jeffrey and Lin, Margaretta, From 'The Art of War' to 'Being Peace': Mindfulness and Community Lawyering in a Neoliberal Age. California Law Review, Vol. 95, p. 2073, 2007; NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper No. 08/09-1. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1024004

Contact Information

Angela P. Harris (Contact Author)
University of California, Davis - King Hall School of Law ( email )
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
United States
530-752-3276 (Phone)
530-754-5311 (Fax)
Jeffrey Selbin
University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )
215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
Margaretta Lin
Community Economic Justice Practice, East Bay Community Law Center ( email )
2921 Adeline St.
Berkeley, CA 94704
United States
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