Document Type


Publication Date

January 2009

First Page



This essay addresses the development of American understandings of the various roles of lawyers in building democracy by focusing on legal reform efforts in the American civil rights movement. In recent years, the supposed achievements of that movement have come under attack as part of a critique of the ideology of legal liberalism. That critique argues that civil rights lawyers and other activists too greatly emphasized court-focused strategies aimed at achieving what would turn out to be Pyrrhic "civil" rights victories-i.e., gains solely in "formal" equality through requirements enshrined in law as to how the state must treat its citizens.