law; subversive lawyering; legal education


Exclusivity in legal education divides traditional scholars, students, and impacted communities most disproportionately harmed by the legal education system. While traditional legal scholars tend to embrace traditional legal education, organic jurists—those who are historically excluded from legal education and those who educate themselves and their communities about their legal rights and realities—often reject the inaccessibility of legal education and its power. This Essay joins a team of community legal writers to imagine a set of principles for subversive legal education. Together, we—formerly incarcerated pro se litigants, paralegals for intergenerational movement lawyering initiatives, first-generation law students and lawyers, persons with years of formal legal expertise, and people who have gained expertise outside of law schools—bring together critical insight about the impact of legal education’s exclusivity and the means by which we have worked to expand access necessary for our survival. The Essay explores the frameworks of movement law, Black feminism, and abolition as impacted people look to reclaim experiences and create tools for subversive legal education that teaches that the law belongs to the people and how they themselves can make and change the law. In Part I, we explore reformist strategies that address the pervasive racism in legal education and the bar admission system while leaving the institutional framework intact. In Part II, we share four case studies of transformative legal tools; these tools work to subvert legal education from a machine that excludes, extracts, and exploits our communities into a mechanism that educates and liberates our communities. In Part III, these case studies illuminate principles that prioritizes access, transparency, and collective design with impacted scholars and communities. This is a first step toward abolition—a radical reimagination of legal education that makes legal knowledge a right, that democratizes legal power, and that recognizes that the production of legal knowledge, teaching, and scholarship must include those whom the law impacts, consistent with the disability rights activism mantra “Nothing About Us Without Us.” For us, abolishing the existing structures perpetuating exclusive enclaves in legal education can assist in other abolitionist struggles, such as abolition of the prison industrial complex; these struggles are tied, not siloed from one another.