Community Lawyering or Collaborative Lawyering?

Published date01 July 2016
Date01 July 2016
Subject MatterEssays
Community Lawyering or
Collaborative Lawyering?
How Far Human Rights Advocacy
Strategies Harbour the
Theory of Change
Arpeeta S. Mizan1
Community lawyering and collaborative lawyering are two of the most widely used human rights
advocacy tactics by North American law school clinics. However, existing literature shows that neither
of these two tactics alone can effectively materialize the empowerment of the concerned underprivi-
leged and marginalized communities. While community lawyering does focus on building leadership
in close connection with the community, without collaborative lawyering the leadership can become
stagnant in time. Similarly, while collaborative lawyering equitably shares the decision-making powers
with the community, it does not specifically focus on building sustainable leadership within the com-
munity. Hence, by way of analyzing an ongoing clinical project of International Human Rights Clinical
Project at Harvard Law School, I argue that a balanced amalgamation of both the advocacy strategies
can produce the best result—effective community leaders with experienced partners to fight for their
rights and provide for a more effective clinical pedagogical method for students. Due to the diverse
nature of human rights advocacy tactics, this article focuses only on economic, social and cultural rights
Promotion and protection of human rights is a multidimensional process. Over the years, this process
has experienced various concrete strategies including litigation, judicial activism and human rights
advocacy. The filter of ‘human rights’ distinctly transforms the dimensions and notions of advocacy per
se: the forms and strategies of human rights advocacy change with the nature of challenges, stakeholders
and activists. Two advocacy strategies which offer a wide opportunity for the stakeholders to get directly
engaged with the cause are community lawyering and collaborative lawyering. These two advocacy
strategies are often used interchangeably, but in this article, I argue that there are slight yet significant
differences between the two approaches: the demarcation between the two strategies in effect determines
the ownership and empowerment of the rights holders themselves vis-à-vis the lawyers. It is due to such
1 Department of Law, North South University, Bangladesh.
Asian Journal of Legal Education
3(2) 188–200
© 2016 The West Bengal National
University of Juridical Sciences
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2322005816640338
Corresponding author:
Arpeeta S. Mizan, Department of Law, North South University, Bangladesh.

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