Solidarity Economy Lawyering
Renee Hatcher, Solidarity Economy Lawyering, Tennessee Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice Vol. 8 (2019).
Renee Hatcher, June 2019
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This Essay explores lawyering in the solidarity economy movement as an emergent approach to progressive transactional lawyering. Solidarity economy is a set of value-driven theories and practices that seeks to transform the global economy into a just economy that centers the needs of people and the planet. While the solidarity economy movement in other parts of the world has been established for several decades, the solidarity economy movement in the United States emerged in 2007. Over the last decade the movement has grown and gained significant momentum, with the rise of solidarity economy organizations and initiatives, as well as the incorporation of solidarity economy strategies in a number of social movements, including the Movement for Black Lives, Indigenous Rights movement, the modern-day environmental justice movement, and in many workers’ rights campaigns. Despite the growing prominence of solidarity economy initiatives, not much if anything has been written about solidarity economy in the legal body of scholarship. All the while, the law and legal support play an integral role to the success of solidarity economy enterprises and the movement overall. Moreover, many transactional lawyers, law school clinics, and legal service organizations are providing legal and technical assistance to solidarity economy organizations. The skills and expertise of transactional lawyers have much to contribute to the solidarity economy movement. I argue that transactional lawyers have a particular role to play in the development of the solidarity economy movement, as creative legal strategies are an important piece to the long and short-term success of the SE movement. These current and potential contributions go beyond the legal structuring of worker cooperatives or community land trusts but fully extend to other transactional legal services and skillsets. Transactional lawyers can play a critical role in 1) advocating for corporate and regulatory reform and creatively reimagining the law to aid the goals of the solidarity economy movement, what others have referred to as radical transactionalism and 2) “scaling up” the solidarity economy through the linkage of solidarity economy organizations and enterprises. However, to be an effective lawyer in the solidarity economy movement, legal professionals must be able to provide more than the necessary technical expertise. Effective solidarity economy lawyers must also embrace the imaginations and experimentations of clients and put the law in service to those goals. To do so, solidarity economy lawyers should develop a deep understanding of their clients’ goals, build authentic and solidaristic relationships with their clients, and also creatively integrate legal strategies to client matters.