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Tennessee Journal of Race, Gender, & Social Justice






This article serves as a call to action for rural law schools to meaningfully incorporate economic justice into transactional legal education, and in doing so, train much needed rural advocates, legal experts, and local leaders. Rural areas are continuously portrayed as “Trump Country” in today’s mainstream media coverage, which largely focuses on socio-cultural differences between urban and rural areas. Many rural scholars and activists are troubled by the “Trump Country” label as it masks the structural poverty issues that lead to housing insecurity, water insecurity, poor public health indicators, unemployment, underemployment, troubled public education systems, and environmental degradation impacting both rural and urban spaces. Moreover, the “Trump Country” narrative makes it difficult to engage in inclusive and intersectional economic justice work, which is necessary to build coalitions and advocate for disenfranchised populations in both urban and rural places. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Poor People’s Campaign championed a more inclusive and intersectional vision of economic justice in 1968. Fifty years later, the Poor People’s Campaign has been revived and its vision of economic justice expressly identifies the role of interlocking systems of oppression in creating poverty. The Poor People’s Campaign embraces an intersectional and holistic definition of economic justice, one that acknowledges the importance of combatting structural racism, misogyny, xenophobia, religious nationalism, anti-LGBTQIA movements, and ecological devastation. This article advocates for rural communities to support intersectional economic justice efforts and for rural law schools to train intersectional economic justice advocates. Rural areas are plagued with a number of problems, including decaying infrastructure and environmental degradation, that collectively create a bleak economic reality. Additionally, when combined with pervasive poverty, the low population density in rural areas makes it difficult for these communities to advocate for requisite structural changes on the local and national level. In order to further economic justice in rural areas, these communities require legal experts and local leaders committed to dismantling systems of oppression on the local, state, and national level. Transactional attorneys possess the technical expertise and critical thinking skills to help communities create innovative solutions through transactional lawyering. Moreover, many attorneys in rural areas serve in formal and informal leadership positions, increasing their potential positive impact beyond their law degree. Thus, rural law schools have the unique opportunity to maximize benefits for communities by training transactional lawyers who understand their obligations to further economic justice. Through the lens of Appalachia, and West Virginia specifically, this article highlights the importance of economic justice work in rural America.



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