To Forge New Hammers of Justice: Deep-Six the Doing-Teaching Dichotomy and Embrace the Dialectic of "Doing Theory"

Barbara L. Bezdek, University of Maryland School of Law

Document Type Article

4 University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, Religion, Gender & Class, 301 (2004).


This essay argues that the teaching-doing tightrope bemoaned among clinicians, while posing real tensions, is overdrawn. The asserted dichotomy is between the demands of teaching legal theory and of doing daily law practice for clients enmeshed in poverty. The dichotomy is misleading because the development of transformative legal theory arises repeatedly on the front lines of client work, and interdependently with the works of attentive scholars. Two bellwether cases, Goldberg v. Kelly and Javins v. First National Realty, illustrate the vital interdependence of justice-seeking scholarship and justice-serving representation of clients in challenging the reigning structure of legal rules and constraining institutions. Ditching the misleading dichotomy is crucial at this point in the nation’s legal evolution, when the justice claims of the poor urgently require deeper legal traction. The author urges a renewed embrace of the robust, social-justice form of “doing-theory” modeled by Charles Hamilton Houston, and contextualizes clinical legal education as a part of longitudinal schooling in social justice lawyering.