Every year, the World Day of Social Justice is celebrated to recognize the need to promote social justice across the globe. Social justice means equal opportunities and treatment for everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or other characteristics.
This year, Social Justice Day was a powerful reminder of our collective responsibility to build an equitable society that provides every individual with access to the same opportunities and resources. According to The United Nations, the theme of the World Day of Social Justice in 2023 was “Overcoming Barriers and Unleashing Opportunities for Social Justice.” So, let us unite in solidarity to make this vision achievable and create lasting change today!
Social Justice Nowadays
Despite global efforts to reduce poverty, inequality still remains one of the most significant barriers to social justice. World Bank Poverty and Inequality Platform data show that 25% or approximately 1.8 billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty, earning less than $3.65 per day to cover basic needs such as food, water, and shelter. This figure is a global average. The percentage is likely much higher in many developing countries as many cannot access essential goods and services due to inequality-based exclusion—such as education, healthcare, and work that pays a livable wage.
Furthermore, according to the United Nations “Toolkit on Disability for Africa,” many people worldwide experience limitations and barriers to social justice due to physical or mental disabilities.
To overcome these barriers and unleash opportunities for social justice, we must make specific laws to guarantee equal rights and ensure everyone has fair access to justice. Additionally, we must focus on creating an environment where all individuals can obtain necessary resources—such as education, healthcare, employment, and more—without facing obstacles because of their gender identity, race, or socioeconomic status.
At Lawrina, we are dedicated to our big idea of improving access to the law for everyone, so we decided to ask practicing attorneys how utilizing the law can drive meaningful changes in society.
Media literacy is crucial in achieving social justice as it helps us understand and address the various ways that unfair social practices are perpetuated through the media. We need to be able to recognize and analyze the different forms of bias, discrimination, and stereotypes presented in various media outlets—such as television, radio, newspapers, and social media—to address these social justice issues more effectively.
Anderson J. Duff, attorney & managing member at Duff Law PLLC, board member of Media Literacy Now, states, “the first step toward positive change in the social justice sphere is perceiving injustice.” Media literacy is essential for decoding media messages, assessing their influence on behavior, and producing content thoughtfully and conscientiously. Without this skill set, it is challenging to identify personal blind spots and make lasting changes on an individual or societal level.
Ryan Zajic, Associate Attorney at Kutak Rock and Bar Content Developer at UWorld, believes that to achieve a more equitable society, it’s essential to keep an eye on people capable of lying to maintain power. “There are people on television and online with large followings whose purpose is to promote fear and hate to divide us as a society,” Ryan says. Therefore, being media literate will allow us to call out these lies when they occur and tell people the truth.
Using the Law to Ensure a Fair and Equitable Education System
The next step is education. This also covers media literacy, and even more critically, it represents a key to achieving social justice. It provides young people from disadvantaged backgrounds with opportunities they may otherwise not have access to. Andrew Pickett, a lead trial attorney at Andrew Pickett Law, says, “we need to use the law to break down barriers and create opportunities for those marginalized by society.”
Andrew references Peggy Cooper Cafritz as a Washington DC lawyer and successful civil rights activist who fought to improve public education, resulting in changes to school policy and governance and additional resources for at-risk students. Her story is a shining example of how lawyers can leverage their knowledge to initiate lasting, positive impacts on society.
Brandon Henderson, founding attorney at HMW Law—a criminal defense and personal injury firm— also notes the power of law standing up for social justice causes and striving towards reformative change. He mentions the well-known Brown v. Board of Education case, which made racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional and laid the groundwork for creating an equitable education system across the United States.
Attracting the Community Into Cases with Far-Reaching Effects on Society
The power of the people’s voices, demonstrations, and pickets should be noticed when it comes to achieving social justice. Throughout history, activists have used these methods to get attention for fundamental causes and change laws’ development. Brandon Henderson—founding attorney of HMW Law—notes that attorneys should strive beyond merely ensuring a successful verdict in court and look at the bigger picture of their clients’ needs.
To do this, “lawyers who take on major cases in the social justice sphere can present evidence at public hearings to get the community to buy into the case,” Brandon shares. In other words, attorneys should consider more than just the legal aspects of a case and work to broaden their clients’ perspectives. For example, a lawyer who takes on environmental protection could help to build public awareness by filing petitions or speaking to local media outlets. This could bring the issue to light and encourage more people to participate.
“In addition to using legal channels to promote change within the justice system, lawyers can also use their expertise in public speaking, writing, and advocacy work to help raise awareness of social justice issues,” shares co-founders of Custodio & Dubey LLP—a personal injury law firm, Miguel Custodio and Vineet Dubey. Legal professionals can also fight discrimination and inequality by contributing articles or participating in debates with lawmakers. Moreover, they can testify at hearings, advocating for proposed legislation that seeks to protect vulnerable populations.
Ben Michael, an Attorney at Michael & Associates Criminal Defense Attorneys, echoes the importance of community action in achieving social justice. He emphasizes that lawyers have tremendous power to influence the legal system by carefully choosing the cases they take: “whether it’s providing defense services to poor defendants, taking on large class action suits, or declining to take certain cases to avoid representing the wrong kind of client.” This way, lawyers can vote with their valuable services and make a difference in the justice system.
Challenge Legislation and Standing Legal Doctrine by Way of Litigation
Since the law and legal doctrine could be better, attorneys are empowered to make a difference by creatively and strategically challenging existing laws or legal paradigms. This is especially true regarding social justice and the protection of human rights. Gage Kenneth Fletcher, a Trial Attorney at Fletcher Law Office, explains that “by filing litigation that implicates core social issues, lawyers are able to bring social justice before American Courts, where true change can be made.”
A key example of social justice litigation is Gideon v. Wainwright (1963). The U.S. Supreme Court held that all criminal defendants have the right to court-appointed counsel when they cannot afford to hire a lawyer. All legal professionals should practice intentional advocacy in their careers to further social justice initiatives.
As the efforts towards social justice initiatives become more prevalent, lawyers must join the movement. Lawrina provides attorneys with the tools needed to support social justice standards. Through the Lawrina Community, legal professionals can network, build like-minded circles, and be a part of changing the experience of law.
Utilize the Law to Help, Not Punish
Though law and social justice are intertwined, the law has long been used as a tool to punish and marginalize individuals. Therefore, as Yong J. An, an Attorney at Law in Texas, explains, being a lawyer also means helping people even if they have done wrong, particularly “by reforming the criminal justice system.” This includes implementing restorative justice practices, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and decreasing reliance on cash bail.
Systemic racism and other forms of inequality can be effectively addressed with action. Through decreasing the rate of unjust incarceration, expanding access to justice for all, and promoting healing within marginalized communities while preventing children from entering into criminal proceedings unfairly, we aim to use the law as a tool in reforming and creating an equitable society that values impartiality and fairness.
A careful examination of the status quo reveals that social justice is still not fully achieved, and much work is yet to be done to ensure equal opportunities for all. We must continue to promote and protect equality and ensure access to justice for all. By utilizing the law, lawyers have an influential role to play in furthering social justice initiatives—such as advocating for education reform, challenging existing legislation, and using restorative justice practices.
At Lawrina, we believe that all people should have access to justice. We are committed to helping lawyers and their clients advance social justice by providing easy-to-use tools, legal document templates, free legal information, and tech-solution to empower everyone to make meaningful and lasting societal changes.
Veronika Pshenychnykova is PR Manager at Lawrina. Veronika has an international law degree and hands-on experience in the legal sphere with the EU and US markets. At Lawrina, Veronika builds ties with bloggers and external sources to spread the word about Lawrina’s projects and ideas.
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