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Public Interest Lawyering: A Contemporary Perspective

  • Alan K. Chen
  • Scott Cummings
Series / Aspen Elective Series
Teaching Materials
Public Interest Lawyering is the first comprehensive analysis of public interest lawyering that is suitable as a law school elective text and/or advanced legal profession courses and seminars. Drawing upon a range of theoretical and empirical perspectives, this timely textbook examines the lives of public interest lawyers, the clients and causes they serve, the contexts within which they work, the strategies they deploy, and the challenges they face today.


  • The first comprehensive overview of the broad range of contemporary issues faced by public interest lawyers in any American law school text.
  • Thorough discussion of important theoretical issues about the scope and definition of public interest lawyering.
  • Addresses American public interest law from a historical perspective with focus on current issues.
  • Expansive examination of the settings in which public interest practice occurs, including nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and private law firms.
  • Presents the advantages and limits of different legal strategies in public interest practice, including lobbying, public education, community organizing, and community economic development.
  • Addresses contemporary challenges of public interest law in context, including economics and financing, legal ethics, the role of legal education, and the globalization of public interest practice.
  • Discusses critiques of public interest law, including a reflection about the role of lawyers in social movements that addresses contemporary critiques.
  • Ethical obligations of public interest lawyers.
  • Explores special issues related to lawyer-client relations in social change contexts.
  • Extensive coverage of:
    • Models of law reform organizations.
    • Conservative cause lawyering.
    • Government lawyers.
    • The economics of social change lawyering.
    • Global social change lawyering.

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Professor Materials
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About the authors
Alan Chen
University of Denver

Alan Chen is a nationally recognized expert in constitutional law, federal courts and civil rights litigation. He pursues research in a variety of fields, including federal remedies for civil rights violations, free speech doctrine and theory, and lawyering for social change. Chen has published many scholarly articles, and his work has appeared in several of the countryrsquo;s leading law journals. He is a past chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Civil Rights. Chen is also interested in linking theory to practice. In recent years, he has litigated two high-profile, pro bono civil rights cases in the federal courts. One case challenged law enforcement officersrsquo; use of pepper spray to subdue peaceful environmental protesters in California. The other lawsuit invalidated a Colorado law mandating that all students and teachers recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. Since joining the University of Denver Sturm College of Law faculty in 1992, Chen has received awards for teaching, contributions to the law review and pro bono legal work. Before entering teaching, Chen was a staff attorney with the ACLUrsquo;s Chicago office, where he was a civil liberties litigator focusing primarily on cases concerning the First Amendment, police misconduct and privacy rights. Before that, he served as a law clerk to the Honorable Marvin E. Aspen, U.S. District Court judge for the Northern District of Illinois.

Scott Cummings

Scott Cummings teaches Business Associations, Professional Responsibility, and Community Economic Development, and is faculty chair of the Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy. His scholarship focuses on the organization and practice of public interest law, and he is currently working on a book that examines the role of public interest lawyers in the movement to transform the Los Angeles low-wage economy. In law school, Professor Cummings served as executive editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. He clerked for Judge A. Wallace Tashima of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge James B. Moran of the Northern District of Illinois. In 1996, Professor Cummings 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.

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Copyright Year
Introduction to Law
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