From 'The Art of War' to 'Being Peace': Mindfulness and Community Lawyering in a Neoliberal Age
61 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2007 Last revised: 2 Nov 2009
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.
Keywords: lawyering, social justice, mindfulness, clinical, community economic development
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