Heterogeneous groups of rights lawyers

Whatever the flaws of big firm probono as it is understood now in the US, it brings together lawyers from different sectors and with different abilities. Sometimes it draws in elite lawyers to work they would not have otherwise done and confers status to the work of those lawyers who are normally at the margins of the profession (prominent example- criminal defense lawyers).  It is interesting to see this phenomenon take place now in England (with the sad decline in availability of legal aid) and to a lesser degree in Canada (where legal aid is quite limited historically). While there is bound to be the preference for more newsworthy causes over less sensational ones, national security/rights lawyering is in any case so newsworthy that perhaps we can expect greater resource mobilization now than ever before for issues such as illegal detention, torture and and other illegal methods of counter-terrorism. We’ve already seen it in the US for Guantanamo prisoners. This is not to trivialize the work of such lawyers who have many different motivations for rights lawyering, most prominently a strong commitment to different aspects of the rule of law, but to explain how probono can contribute towards heterogeneity in rights lawyering especially by bringing resources for rule of law lawyering for those interested in this work.  When big law firms do probono, they want to make a splash, not just wade through the water. What better area to do that in than where basic freedoms of human beings are affected? However, once these cases become the norm there may be a saturation point to look out for. 

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