Politics as legal action/lawyers as political actors: towards a reconceptualisation of cause lawyering

The ‘resolutions movement’ – a popular political mobilisation guided by lawyers, and expressed in exclusively legal terms and orientated towards legal objectives – has been an important expression of popular resistance to contemporary US counterterrorism policy. This article uses the resolutions movement as a vehicle for critically evaluating the cause lawyer literature and for reconceptualising ‘cause lawyers’. The article discusses two different approaches to the political implications of lawyering. The first approach draws on the ‘cause-lawyering’ literature that appears initially as a perfect context for analysing the movement. However, detailed examination shows this approach to be premised on a strong dichotomy between law and politics, something that impedes analysis. To overcome the resulting aporia, a ‘strategic-relational’ approach, which sees both law and politics as social relations and practices, is proposed as an alternative. This allows a more nuanced discussion of the law–politics relation that facilitates analysis of the movement and leads to a set of proposals capable of enabling cause-lawyering studies to transcend its conceptual rigidity.
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