Cause Lawyers, Political Violence and Professionalism in Conflict

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This article examines how cause lawyers in conflicted and authoritarian societies balance their professional responsibilities as lawyers with their commitment to a political cause, and is drawn from extensive interviews with both lawyers and political activists in a range of societies. It focuses on the challenges for lawyers in managing relations with violent politically-motivated clients and their movements. Using the notion of `legitimation work', it seeks to examine the complex, fluid, and contingent understandings of legal professionalism that is developed in such contexts, offering three overlapping `ideal types' of cause lawyers in order to better understand the meaning of legal professionalism in such sites: (a) struggle lawyers (b) human rights activists and (c) a `pragmatic moral community'. It concludes by re-examining how law is imagined in the legitimation work of cause lawyers in such settings and how that work is remembered in the transition from violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-558
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Law and Society
Issue number4
Early online date06 Nov 2019
Publication statusEarly online date - 06 Nov 2019


  • cause lawyers
  • transitional justice
  • human rights
  • legal professions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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