David Nahmias

The Changemaker Lawyer: Innovating the Legal Profession for Social Change

As lawyers today confront existential challenges to their profession, from globalization to technological change, they face demands to innovate. In a world of rapid change, individuals must have certain skills to succeed; they must be “changemakers.” Changemakers are individuals who harness innovation to solve social challenges, a notion arising from the global movement of social entrepreneurship that has captured the attention of sectors spanning international development and the business world. This Note argues that through their innovative work, “changemaker lawyers” present a new set of skills and concepts to support a struggling legal profession. They can serve as exemplars and guides for lawyers in an evolving profession, and the principles that undergird their work can provide significant advantages to the profession as a whole. Starting from the proposition that these changemaker lawyers exist, I conducted interviews with ten attorneys whose unconventional work or expertise embodies changemaker lawyering. Drawing on my interviews, I identify three key themes that changemaker lawyers appear to have in common: (1) they seek to overcome long-standing norms in the legal profession; (2) they design novel organizational structures that reflect their values, and (3) they create trans-disciplinary practices that bridge legal fields and sectors. I then suggest challenges that handicap changemaker lawyers. By proposing the idea of changemaker lawyers, this Note seeks to help create a new identity, unite a diverse community of advocates, and trigger a new movement in the legal profession.

 

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