Earthjustice: Because the Earth Needs a Good Lawyer

Earthjustice_LogoThere is an interesting debate that has recently begun about renaming the term “environmental law” to something like “resource law” based on the simple fact that there are lawyers out there who practice environmental law that are in no way actively working to protect the environment. There is no such confusion with the attorneys that work for Eartjustice. The whole raison d’etre for this non-profit organization is to work on behalf of the earth for the benefit of ours and future generations. Recently I spoke to Earthjustice associate attorney Neil Gormley about Earthjustice and practicing environmental law in an age where the difference between how the environment is viewed on Capitol Hill and on Main Street are seemingly growing increasingly disconnected.

Earthjustice is a non-profit environmental law organization with roots that go back to 1965 and the Sierra Club’s battle to protect Mineral King, a valley in California’s Sierra Nevada’s mountains from the developers at Walt Disney, who wanted to build a massive ski resort complex with all the negative environmental consequences such a development can cause. While the Walt Disney company actually won the Mineral King case after it wound its way to the Unites States Supreme Court in 1972, an opinion in the majority decision that a private citizen could be irreparably harmed by the development. This was the springboard that the Sierra Club attorneys used to set the precedent that a private citizen could sue a developer for environmental damage, a decision that their follow up court victory confirmed in allowing the public’s right to fight for the environment in court. Formally split off into the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund in 1971, the mission of these attorneys has remained the same:

Continue reading “Earthjustice: Because the Earth Needs a Good Lawyer”

Fighting Bad Guys Since 1961: Human Rights Pioneer Amnesty International

Layout 1Founded in 1961, Amnesty International has grown to be one of the most respected and preeminent human rights organizations on the planet. Combining the global appeal of a populist, membership based organization with an activist, research-based human rights organization, Amnesty International has evolved into a worldwide organization campaigning on a multitude of human rights issues. Progressive Lawyer chatted with Anna Shea, an Amnesty legal advisor working for the International Secretariat in London, England. A graduate of McGill University’s School of Law, Anna started out as a Canadian articling student. She talks about working with Amnesty and offers some tips for the law student looking to break into human rights law.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have been a longtime member of Amnesty International since the mid ’80s.

Progressive Lawyer: Hello! Please introduce yourself and describe your role in Amnesty International.

Anna Shea: I am the Legal Adviser on Refugee and Migrant Rights at Amnesty International’s head office in London, UK. In this role, I do a wide variety of work, such as overseeing legal interventions at national and regional courts, researching human rights violations on the ground, writing reports, doing individual casework, and advising colleagues on international human rights standards related to refugee and migrant rights. Continue reading “Fighting Bad Guys Since 1961: Human Rights Pioneer Amnesty International”

At the Vanguard of Progressive Law: The National Lawyers Guild

NLG_logo copyFormed in 1937, The National Lawyers Guild has truly been at the forefront of progressive law since their inception both in the United States and around the world. As an alternative to the American Bar Association and as the first racially integrated bar association, the NLG has managed to both stay true to their ideals and to maintain their activist roots despite the trials and tribulations they have had to endure. Progressive Lawyer talked with Azadeh Shahshahani, the president of the NLG on what they do and why. Azadeh is a 2004 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, where she served as article editor for the Michigan Journal of International Law. Also while in law school, Azadeh completed a fellowship with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Washington, DC.

Progressive Lawyer: Hello! Please introduce yourself and describe your role in the National Lawyers Guild.

Azadeh Shahshahani: My name is Azadeh Shahshahani and I serve as President of the National Lawyers Guild.

PL: Why was the National Lawyers Guild  started? What issues does it confront? Touch on some of the rich history of the NLG.

AS: The National Lawyers Guild was established in 1937 as the first racially integrated bar association by progressive lawyers and jurists who believed that they had a major role to play in the reconstruction of legal values to emphasize human rights over property rights. The Guild is the oldest and most extensive network of public interest and human rights activists working within the legal system. For more, I would encourage you to check out the historical timeline on the NLG website which provides a snapshot of our rich history:

PL: What services does NLG offer? Who are its primary clients/audience?

AS: Our different committees, task forces, projects, and caucuses offer different services depending on their focus. For example, the Military Law Task Force provides legal support and advice to service members including conscientious objectors. The National Immigration Project brings lawsuits to defend immigrants’ rights and provides cutting-edge training to attorneys. The International Committee sends delegations to countries in which the US has had a destructive role through its foreign policy and attempts to hold the US government accountable for lending support to dictatorial regimes and attempting to destabilize governments with a leftist bent. The underlying focus of all NLG constituencies however is to provide support to social justice movements and to individuals and communities under attack.  The full listing of our committees is here:

Also, we have a referral directory here: Continue reading “At the Vanguard of Progressive Law: The National Lawyers Guild”

Fighting the Fight for Digital Freedom: The Electronic Frontier Foundation

eff-logo-plain-300Our lives are increasingly moving online We seem to be perpetually glued to our smartphones, tablets and Facebook posts and the effect of this activity on our rights is of perhaps greater importance than ever before. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been at the forefront of the fight in defense of our digital rights. This week Progressive Lawyer talks with EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo. According to EFF, Nate is a Staff Attorney on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s digital civil liberties team. In addition to his focus on free speech and privacy litigation, Nate works on EFF’s Who Has Your Back? report and Coders’ Rights Project. Nate has projects involving automotive privacy, government transparency, hardware hacking rights, anonymous speech, electronic privacy law reform, Freedom of Information Act litigation, and resisting the expansion of the surveillance state. A 2009-2010 EFF Open Government Legal Fellow, Nate spent two years in private practice before returning to his senses and to EFF in 2012.  Nate has a B.A. in Anthropology and Politics from U.C. Santa Cruz and a J.D. from U.C. Hastings where he has taught first-year legal writing and moot court.about what the organization does and how their work affects us all. He brews his own beer, has been to India three times, and watches too much Bollywood.

Progressive Lawyer: Hello! Introduce yourself and describe your role in EFF.

Nate Cardozo: I’m a staff attorney on the civil liberties team here at the Electronic  Frontier Foundation. I work on free speech and privacy issues, as well as focusing on the Coders’ Rights project. I have projects involving anonymous speech, government transparency, automotive privacy, surveillance, and the freedom to use cryptography currently ongoing.

PL: Why was your organization started? What issues does it confront?

NC: EFF was started in 1990 by John Gilmore, John Perry Barlow, and Mitch Kapor.  There is a long description here: but fundamentally, EFF was formed because the founders realized that the courts and law enforcement didn’t understand the latest technology, and that was going to impact free speech rights.  We’ve continued to fight for free speech as well as privacy and innovation for technology users around the world — working to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows. Continue reading “Fighting the Fight for Digital Freedom: The Electronic Frontier Foundation”

Spotlight on the Internatio​nal Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

iglhrc-logoThis week we shine our spotlight on the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the very important work they do with gay and lesbian rights issues around the world. For this spotlight we interviewed director of programs Marianne Møllmann. Ms. Møllmann previously was a senior policy advisor with Amnesty International’s International Secretariat in London where she focused on freedom of expression and sexual rights issues, and a women’s rights researcher and advocate with Human Rights Watch in New York. Ms. Møllmann specializes in sexual rights, reproductive rights, women in conflict, economic rights, and anti-discrimination. Ms. Møllmann has lived and worked in several countries and continents. She is the former co-coordinator of the Women’s Working Group of the International Network for Economic Social and Cultural Rights and the former executive director of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA). Ms. Møllmann holds an LL.M. in International Human Rights Law from Essex University and speaks fluent Spanish, French, and Danish.

Progressive Lawyer: Hello. Please introduce yourself and describe your role in IGLHRC.

Marianne Møllmann:  My name is Marianne Møllmann, and I am director of programs at IGLHRC. That means I head up our UN advocacy, and support our 4 regional coordinators as they lead their programs in the regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East.

PL: Why was your organization started? What issues does it confront? 

MM: For nearly 25 years, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has been working hand-in-hand with activists in the Global South to support, strengthen, promote and expand the movement for a more just and safe world. IGLHRC is the only LGBT organization based in the United States that is dedicated solely to working with frontline activists who are seeking to change discriminatory laws, stop violence and promote human rights for everyone, everywhere. Continue reading “Spotlight on the Internatio​nal Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission”

Progressive Lawyer is powered by the sun! The quest to build a sustainable website part 2 Solar Panels

Last week in Part 1 of this piece I talked about how Progressive Lawyer is using Open Source software to power its infrastructure and how I believe that is the way to go versus proprietary software. This week in Part 2 I highlight how I am working to make the Progressive Lawyer website as sustainable as possible and why that is important. Again, I am not a professional web developer or designer but with the resources I have listed and some experimentation, anybody with a website can make their online home that much greener and for that we all win!

The issue of sustainable web design and the corresponding issue of the energy usage of the Internet are intricately linked and drawing increasing attention. As we have been moving our lives online, a lot of people are starting to study the carbon footprint of all this activity in order to determine how to mitigate its environmental effects. The growing use of Facebook, Twitter, Google Search, iTunes, the cloud, Amazon, Pinterest, etc. is having an increasingly detrimental effect on our environment but the good news is that it isn’t all bad. Despite the growing demand requiring greater server usage and therefore increasing energy consumption, companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook are using cutting edge technology and renewable energy sources to power their voracious server farms. Greenpeace has done some excellent work documenting the Green Internet and their latest report “Your Online World: #ClickClean or Dirty?” highlights both the trendsetters and the environmental laggards when it comes to operating a green data center.

Continue reading “Progressive Lawyer is powered by the sun! The quest to build a sustainable website part 2”

Progressive Lawyer is powered by the sun! The quest to build a sustainable website part 1

As Progressive Lawyer is passionate about helping lawyers and law students make a difference and as I prepare to launch the site in October, part of my mission is to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk.” Part of that talk, as outlined in the values of the site are that the site be built on Open Source software and that the design incorporate sustainable web design.

On a personal note, while I consider myself to be quite “geeky” and I do have experience running websites, I am not a professional web designer or developer. The great thing about the tools that I am using for Progressive Lawyer is that they allow anybody truly interested in building a web presence the opportunity to do some cool things with a not too steep learning curve. When you get to the point where you are in over your head you can always then go to a developer to help out but at least you will be comfortable in running and maintaining your site which is always helpful moving forward.

Continue reading “Progressive Lawyer is powered by the sun! The quest to build a sustainable website part 1”

Progressive Lawyer is now on Facebook!

facebook-logo-thumbs-upLove it or loathe it, there is no doubt that Facebook has become a ubiquitous and for some indispensable part of life so in the quest to maintain a presence on all major social platforms there is now a Progressive Lawyer Facebook page. You can check it out at

Please stop by and like us! Just like our Twitter feed, you will be able to stay up to date on all the major happenings over at Progressive


Our Values

As I prepare to launch Progressive Lawyer next month, I felt it important to put down in writing the values that I want the site (and eventually the B Corp that will follow) to incorporate as part of its DNA. I want Progressive Lawyer to be more than just a place to get career information or legal updates, I want Progressive Lawyer to be an agent of change. So here they are. Post any questions and comments below.

Thank you.


Our Values

  1. To provide our community of lawyers and law students with the most accurate and comprehensive information and resources available to enable them to use their legal skills in a way that is progressive, altruistic and in the public interest while maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
  2. To inspire legal professionals to follow their progressive values and make a difference with their legal skills regardless of the kind of law they currently practice.
  3. To make a positive social impact locally, nationally and internationally. We believe that business should be socially responsible and give back to the community and as such we operate ours with a triple bottom line of profit, people and planet.
  4. To always be transparent to our community in how we operate and what we do.
  5. When it comes to technology we believe in:
    1. Open Source – Progressive Lawyer is built on open source software such as Linux and WordPress and we encourage its use wherever possible.
    2. Open Standards – We avoid proprietary standards wherever possible and have embraced web standards such as HTML 5 and CSS.
    3. An Open Internet – We believe that a free and open internet is the basis for innovation and free speech. As such we support any and all efforts to protect and enhance this vision.
  6. To maintain our autonomy. We are independent of any group or association, religious creed or political ideology.


Why Progressive Lawyer?

ICON-ONLY_high_RGBProgressive Lawyer is a simple idea born out of a realization that for those law students and legal professionals interested in pursuing progressive, public interest law there is no easy way to get career information, news and commentary related to areas like human rights, the environment, access to justice, freedom of expression and sexuality, digital rights, international law and development. There are myriad sources of information but they are spread out all across the internet making it a real chore to keep up with it all.

Progressive Lawyer wants to change this.

Progressive Lawyer is being developed as a digital hub connecting lawyers and law students with socially progressive organizations and law firms active in social justice and public interest advocacy.

We want to inspire lawyers and law students to use their legal skills in pursuit of progressive causes by publishing interviews with progressive legal professionals, spotlights on organizations and firms on the cutting edge of human rights, social justice, environmental and other progressive causes and publish impactful multimedia features and issue oriented specials.

We want to inform by connecting progressive organizations and firms with our community by way of a career and resume service and our hand selected Progressive Lawyer database as well as a continuously updated events guide.

Finally we want to encourage our community to exchange information and opinions through social media and eventually, on our own social media platform.

Phase 1 will launch in October 2014 with spotlights on a number of cutting edge organizations involved in progressive legal issues and developments. Please check back here regularly as we update the community on our progress to launch and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter!

Thanks and welcome aboard!

Mark Boudreau LL.B