On October 6th, 2014 I launched Progressive Lawyer, a 100% solar-powered website designed to connect lawyers and law students with social justice organizations and law firms involved in social justice work. As this is roughly the sixth month anniversary of its launch, I would like to briefly discuss why the site was created, what has been achieved so far, and what plans I have going forward. And as will become clear, the most exciting thing is that it is not just me involved with Progressive Lawyer any more. There are now some talented and inspirational people involved with the site, and I will introduce them here and discuss how you can get involved. But first, let me go back to the “why” behind Progressive Lawyer.
Like many law school graduates, for a variety of reasons I am not actively practising law. The path I took was perhaps as much a reaction to the area of law I found myself in (personal injury litigation) as to what law school inflicted on me, but needless to say I am not alone. According to the latest statistics from the American Bar Association, only 62.2% of the Class of 2013 were employed in a position that required passage of a Bar exam, and the legal job market is sluggish and has been for awhile.
But that is not why I left the law.
I left the law because I found it difficult to find a position that matched my values, that gave me a reason why being a lawyer was such a noble profession. In fact I forgot why I went to law school, and by the end of my articles (a form of mandatory internship here in Canada} I wanted nothing to do with the law.
As I went through my post-law school career I didn’t think much about it, but as I got older, the constant attacks on the profession – some justified but many not – started to gnaw on me. Not all lawyers are “money-grubbing ambulance chasers,” I would patiently explain to friends and colleagues. There are incredible lawyers doing incredible work out there. “Prove it” would come the response. And so I set out to show people that not all lawyers are the ugly stereotype.
I started reading about social justice lawyers and social justice lawyering, and started thinking about how I could contribute, could give back something to a profession I had essentially walked away from. It was through this research that I came across an article that was to directly kickstart Progressive Lawyer. The article was titled “Letter To A Law Student Interested in Social Justice,” by William P. Quigley, a law professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans. In my opinion? It should be required reading to any law student and lawyer practising today. I encourage you to read it, but in essence it describes how the practice of social justice law is difficult, frustrating and often not very glamorous but at the same time is perhaps the most rewarding possible way to use your law degree.
And I was inspired.
The purpose behind Progressive Lawyer is to connect lawyers and law students to social justice organizations and law firms practising social justice work.