Mechanisms and consequences of professional marginality: The case of poverty lawyers revisited

Marina Zaloznaya*, Laura Beth Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


A partial replication of Jack Katz's (1982) Poor People's Lawyers in Transition, this article explores the manifestations and consequences of professional marginality of legal aid lawyers. Based on thirty-five interviews with poverty attorneys and interns in Chicago, the authors show that scarce material resources and unclear expectations continue to give rise to the marginalization of this segment of the legal profession. The authors analyzed ideological, task, status, and material dimensions of attorneys' professional marginality. With no access to reform litigation, central to the legal aid "culture of significance" in the 1970s, present-day poverty lawyers seek new ways to cope with marginality. The authors argue that these lawyers' coping strategies have many negative consequences. Thus, over time, poverty lawyers' deep engagement with clients, ideals of empowerment, and social justice orientation give way to emotional detachment, complacency, and an emphasis on "making do" within the constraints of the system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)919-944
Number of pages26
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Law


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