I get several emails every week from people who want to go to law school or are trying to figure out if they want to go to law school. Most are queer or trans activists or people who want to somehow transform the world and end various harmful and horrible dynamics impacting people and communities they are a part of or care about. Because I talk on the phone or in person to many of these people and end up saying a lot of the same things to them, I thought it might be useful to write them down. In general, these conversations are focused on helping them get past the national narratives we have all been fed that tell us that legal cases are the most effective way to dismantle systems of oppression and change people’s lives. If we compare that idea to what is really happening in the world and what social movements are strategizing about, we find a more complicated relationship between law and social movements that raises questions about whether, when and how becoming a lawyer could be a good way to participate in transformative change.
By Dean Spade, 2010