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Lawyers of the Right

Professionalizing the Conservative Coalition

A timely and multifaceted portrait of the lawyers who serve the diverse constituencies of the conservative movement, Lawyers of the Right explains what unites and divides lawyers for the three major groups—social conservatives, libertarians, and business advocates—that have coalesced in recent decades behind the Republican Party. 
            Drawing on in-depth interviews with more than seventy lawyers who represent conservative and libertarian nonprofit organizations, Ann Southworth explores their values and identities and traces the implications of their shared interest in promoting political strategies that give lawyers leading roles. She goes on to illuminate the function of mediator organizations—such as the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy—that have succeeded in promoting cooperation among different factions of conservative lawyers. Such cooperation, she finds, has aided efforts to drive law and the legal profession politically rightward and to give lawyers greater prominence in the conservative movement. Southworth concludes, though, that tensions between the conservative law movement’s elite and populist elements may ultimately lead to its undoing.

272 pages | 4 line drawings, 9 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2008

Chicago Series in Law and Society

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Society

Political Science: Judicial Politics

Sociology: Occupations, Professions, Work


“The numbers and the influence of lawyers for conservative causes have risen spectacularly since the 1980s. In this fine book Ann Southworth paints a group portrait of these lawyers—business lawyers, libertarians, social and religious conservatives—and of their backgrounds, strategies, and conflicting ideas and aspirations. This is a really illuminating book. It is one the best studies of the legal profession I’ve seen in recent years. It is imaginative in concept and design. The reader comes away with confidence that he has been given a reliable and deeply insightful account of an important social phenomenon.”

Robert W. Gordon, Yale Law School

“Ann Southworth deepens our understanding of ‘cause lawyering’ with her fascinating account of the relatively neglected conservative end of the political spectrum. She helps to rebut the (implausible) claim that law schools and lawyers are monolithically liberal. She explains why champions of laissez faire believe that the market fails to deliver legal services to all and why critics of excessive litigation and judicial activism pursue their own political agenda in the courts. Exploring the contradictions within conservatism and the efforts of right-wing cause lawyers to resolve those tensions, this book illuminates what conservatism may become.”

Richard Abel, UCLA School of Law

“Presenting her subjects straightforwardly, without making judgments about the issues that they and their organizations support, Ann Southworth rejects the notion that the lawyers for the right are less deserving than lawyers for the left of the ‘cause lawyer’ title. The topic is fascinating. Southworth’s portraits and analyses of the various parties, especially the mediators of the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, are illuminating. And the tone is just right.”

Bryant Garth, Southwestern Law School

"Southworth’s book is valuable in that it highlights the faultlines that exist within the conservative coalition, begins to explore the role of lawyers within the conservative movement, and identifies . . . many interesting points about the conservative legal movement."

Joshua Wilson | Law & Politics Book Review

"Aside from its pioneering subject matter, Lawyers of the Right contributes to the sociological literature on social movements, political institutions, and organizational behavior. . . . An intriguing examination of the various actors that represent the interests of the conservative coalition."

Ursula Castellano | American Journal of Sociology

“This groundbreaking contribution details the emergence of the conservative legal movement, the professionals who implement it, and the strategic decisions they make about how to use the courts as they advance their causes. . . . By way of seventy-two interviews with conservative advocates; detailed analysis of newspaper articles; organizational data about conservative public interest firms; analysis of Congressional testimony; and court documents, Southworth engages in a rigorous analytical examination of the internal and external obstacles to achieving conservative policy goals. Southworht’s data are complemented by an extensive quantitative network analysis of lawyers for conservative causes. . . . Lawyers of the Right provides an accurate and rich description of the causes that comprise the [conservative] movement, at the same time demystifying the image of these lawyers as uniformly ideologically aligned with each other and with the causes they represent.”

Laura Beth Nielsen and Jill D. Weinberg | Journal of Legal Education

Table of Contents



1 Introduction

2 The Creation of an Infrastructure for Conservative Legal Advocacy

3 Divided Constituencies and Their Lawyers

4 Professional Identity

5 How Much Common Ground?

6 Mediator Organizations: The Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society

7 What’s Law Got to Do with It?

8 Conclusion

Appendix: Research Methods



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