What is Law Reform?
The concept of "law reform" emphasizes the pursuit of aggressive, creative legal advocacy to identify, challenge and change policies that adversely impact the poor as a group. Law reform recognizes that lawyers, their clients, and community groups can be catalysts for social change.
The hallmarks of law reform are impact, efficiency, collaborative relationships, and multi-forum advocacy - i.e., a large toolbox of strategies including class action litigation, legislative advocacy, administrative advocacy, and educating the public and policymakers on issues that affect low income people. The goal of law reform is systemic change: addressing widespread problems and achieving long–term results. As the late Sargent Shriver wrote, "A reform in the law may aid thousands of the poor in the time it takes to solve a hundred individual problems." Systemic advocacy is an efficient and effective means to address the root causes of poverty or to correct a law, policy or practice affecting a large number of low income people.
Want to learn more about MLRI's strategies for systemic reform? Check out this piece in Dialogue, the national magazine of the American Bar Association's Division for Legal Services. The article, "Tough Advocacy for Tough Times," highlights MLRI's multi-forum advocacy, using as an example its work to preserve affordable housing units in two high-profile cases in Massachusetts.