The Rebellious Law Professor: Combining Cause and Reflective Lawyering

Journal of Legal Education, Volume 65, Number 2 (November 2015)

Howard Law Research Paper No. 15-8

26 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2015

Date Written: November 16, 2015


In 1992, Gerald López argued that progressive lawyering requires the practitioner to rethink the practice of law, the needs of the community, and the relationship between the two. He urged progressive lawyers to rebel1against reigning (“regnant”) patterns of law and practice that serve only to reinforce the established order and alienate progressive lawyers from their natural base, the community. It is time for us to rethink the teaching of law itself, as well as how the needs of the community and our own needs have begun to converge. Can we, should we, be rebellious too, as cause lawyers are? Faculty right now stand in the middle of this quandary, as the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray, and too many others spark protests that envelop the country.

The article explores a variety of ways in which law professors can rebel, creating on-campus experiential learning opportunities for their students through clinics, externships, or service learning opportunities. Such venues can connect us with social movements struggling with class and race issues, adding their insights, problem assessment, and problem-solving skills to our own. In this fashion “rebellious” law professors can begin to follow the examples of “cause lawyering” practitioners who have been at this for quite some time now.

As we move forward, strengthening our engagement with today’s fragmented social movements and, indeed, with the communities from which we have come, we may well find ourselves protecting the honor of our profession and our rights as faculty, and our own autonomy and agency as well. It is possible that we, and the community members with whom we engage, will learn to think outside our respective boxes together, creating a broad-based program out of their work and our own, serving all our interests.

Keywords: cause lawyering, reflective lawyering, Black Lives Matter, social movements, Ferguson, Freddie Gray, Baltimore, Justin Hansford, Gerald Lopez, Rebellious Lawyering, neoliberalism, university governance, social justice lawyering, lawyering skills, free spaces, civic inftastructure

Suggested Citation

McDougall, Harold A., The Rebellious Law Professor: Combining Cause and Reflective Lawyering (November 16, 2015). Journal of Legal Education, Volume 65, Number 2 (November 2015), Howard Law Research Paper No. 15-8, Available at SSRN:

Harold A. McDougall (Contact Author)

Howard University School of Law ( email )

2900 Van Ness Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
United States

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