Social Justice Series: Law and Social Movements

14 August 2019



Social Justice Series: Law and Social Movements

Speaker: Professor Scott Cummings, UCLA

The question of whether lawyers help or hurt social movements has been hotly debated for nearly half a century. In the United States, the dominant view has long been that overinvestment in legal tactics undercut sustainable grassroots activism in the civil rights period. Over the last decade, that view has come in for reconsideration, powered by the emergence of new left-wing social movements and the legal response to American right-wing populism.

Drawing upon lessons from these contemporary movements, Professor Cummings explores the possibilities and pitfalls of combining legal and political mobilization, suggesting implications for legal education and social justice practice.

About the speaker

Scott Cummings is Robert Henigson Professor of Legal Ethics and Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, where he teaches and writes about the legal profession, public interest law, law and social movements, and community economic development. He is the faculty director of Legal Ethics and the Profession (LEAP), a program promoting research and programming on the challenges facing the contemporary legal profession. He is also a long-time member of the UCLA David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy, a specialization training students to become public interest lawyers.

Professor Cummings's research is focused on economic development, law and social movements, and the legal profession. His most recent book, Blue and Green: The Drive for Justice at America's Port (MIT University Press, 2018), examines the role of lawyers in a campaign by the labor and environmental movements to transform the trucking industry at the port of Los Angeles. An Equal Place: Lawyers in the Struggle for Los Angeles, a sweeping study of how lawyers have helped to challenge inequality in one of America's most unequal cities, is scheduled for publication by Oxford University Press in 2019.

Professor Cummings is also the co-author of the first public interest law textbook, Public Interest Lawyering: A Contemporary Perspective (with Alan Chen) (Wolters Kluwer, 2012), and co-editor of a leading legal profession casebook, Legal Ethics (with Deborah Rhode, David Luban, and Nora Engstrom) (7th ed. Foundation Press, 2016). He also edited The Paradox of Professionalism: Lawyers and the Possibility of Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Professor Cummings is currently co-Principal Investigator of a National Science Foundation funded study (with Richard Abel and Catherine Albiston), which examines the factors causing law students to enter and persevere in public interest careers. His key articles include: "The Social Movement Turn in Law," Law & Social Inquiry (2018); "The Puzzle of Social Movements in American Legal Theory," 64 UCLA Law Review 1554 (2017); "Preemptive Strike: Law in the Campaign for Clean Trucks," 4 UC Irvine Law Review 939 (2014); "Privatizing Public Interest Law," 25 Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics 1 (2012); "The Internationalization of Public Interest Law," 57 Duke Law Journal 891 (2008); "The Politics of Pro Bono," 52 UCLA Law Review 1 (2004); and "Community Economic Development as Progressive Politics: Toward a Grassroots Movement for Economic Justice," 54 Stanford Law Review 399 (2001).

Before joining the UCLA faculty in 2002, Professor Cummings clerked for Judge A. Wallace Tashima on the Ninth Circuit, and James Moran on the district court in Chicago. He began his legal career in Los Angeles building economic opportunity in low-income communities. In 1998, after clerking in Chicago, he was awarded a Skadden Fellowship to work in the Community Development Project at Public Counsel in Los Angeles, where he provided transactional legal assistance to nonprofit organizations and small businesses engaged in community revitalization efforts.

CPD Points: 1

This is a free public lecture series from Sydney Law School that focuses on social justice and the law.


Time: 6-7pm

Location: Common Room, Level 4, New Law Building (F10), Eastern Avenue, Camperdown, University of Sydney

Cost: Complimentary, however registration is essential.

Contact: Professional Learning & Community Engagement

Phone: 02 9351 0429

Email: 0803146d272e123438383938563d2723174c572844642f40