Revolutionary Lawyering? On Lawyers’ Social Responsibilities and Roles during a Democratic Revolution
32 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2013
Date Written: July 22, 2013
Do lawyers have any social responsibilities during a revolution? If so, what are they? Does the lawyer hold any special roles in revolutionary times? This article discusses these questions, which raise thorny theoretical and practical dilemmas. According to the article, revolutions in the Western world and the legal profession are linked. Therefore, the article describes the historical role lawyers have played in the great revolutions which have created stable liberal traditions based on the idea of “rights”: The Glorious English Revolution of 1688-1689 and the American and French Revolutions of the end of the 18th century. Moreover, the article deliberates on the characteristics of lawyers which support conservatism and oppose revolutions and vice versa. It then presents the conflicting duties which are imposed upon lawyers during revolutions. On the one hand, the lawyer has an obligation to preserve the legal order and the rule of law. This obligation may entail a duty to act in a counter-revolutionary manner. On the other hand, the lawyer has obligations to improve the legal system and to promote the rule of law. These may entail actions which support the revolutionary values or goals, especially in a democratic revolution. Lastly, the article considers the practical role of lawyers during a revolution, inter alia, in public speaking and assisting in drafting the basic documents of the new legal order. Even in times of revolutions that seek to collapse the existing legal order, the legal milieu is of great importance. The revolutionary lawyer plays a significant role in preserving and creating the temporary, transitional and new legal orders. According to the article, the participation of lawyers in a revolution strongly influences the legitimacy of the existing legal order and necessarily the legitimacy of the revolution itself.
Keywords: lawyers, revolutions
JEL Classification: K10, K19, K40, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation