After years of working as a movement lawyer, as a law professor, and a builder of movement lawyering networks, Purvi decided to dedicated herself to building movement lawyering out as a formalized field, with standardized principles and practices, established curriculum and a host of legal organizations and lawyers formally adopting this method around the world. To support this vision, Purvi launched The Movement Law Lab (The Lab).
The vision of The Lab is to steward a new generation of dynamic, collaborative and versatile legal organizations and lawyers with the know-how and expertise to use the law to better serve social justice movements. Through The Movement Law Lab, Purvi is incubating and accelerating a crop of new movement lawyering organizations, transforming the model of existing legal organizations and creating an active national and international network of movement lawyers.
The Lab utilizes a range of field building strategies including:
1) Setting Norms & Standards: As an embryonic field, there is currently no clear definition of movement lawyering or a set of core principles, standards, norms, and/or metrics on movement lawyering. The Lab is filling this gap by gathering experts on movement lawyering to agree on basic definitions, a core set of principles, and to standardize language on movement lawyering.
2) Trainings: In her determination to open new avenues and opportunities that ultimately change the path for existing and new lawyers, Purvi has incorporated into The Lab a training arm. The Lab’s trainings are designed to help retrofit existing traditional legal institutions by providing consultation to Executive Directors and offering expertly tailored trainings for staff. The Lab also runs a trainers’ collective, develops core curriculum, publishes manuals, resources and self-study tools on movement lawyering.
3) Incubation: The Lab periodically hosts an incubator that provides intensive and targeted support to lawyers building creative new organizations or projects that connect law to social movement and systems-change. Teams chosen for the incubator receive coaching, access to a “genius bar” of advisors, coaches and experts; modest funding; and operations support to make their new venture sustainable.
4) Strategy Acceleration: Understanding how important innovation and creative spaces are for Movement Lawyers, Purvi launched “Brain Trusts” or strategy acceleration spaces, where small groups of lawyers can examine a particularly sticky problem free from organizational constrains and tactical silos. These spaces facilitate blue-sky thinking and creative collaboration. Brain Trusts are organized in partnership with community organizations seeking imaginative legal support for a campaign or by a lawyer/legal organization stumped by a complex obstacle in their justice work. With this, Movement Lawyers have a space to experiment, brainstorm, be creative and evolve.
5) Leadership Development: Purvi’s long experience with grassroots organizations and with Law for Black Lives made it clear that more lawyers with lived experiences in social movements are needed and that it’s critical to develop opportunities and pathways for lawyers who are POC and/or who belong to the communities directly impacted by the social movements. This is why part of the strategy of The Movement Law Lab is to develop new leaders by investing in leadership of diverse lawyers who come from the communities they work in. The Movement Law Lab is intentionally investing in legal visionaries coming from marginalized communities and is creating a pipeline for Black and Brown lawyers that will grow and shape the field for the next generations.
6) Networks: The Lab breaks down the silos between and isolation among movement lawyers and their institutions. The Lab brings together movement lawyers and allies on the national and international level to exchange strategies and approaches to movement lawyering and build a deeper understanding of how to win greater justice and human rights. Purvi also launched the first-ever Global Convening of Movement Lawyers, which brought together movement lawyers from 25 countries in March 2019 in Marrakech, Morocco. The convening offered a timely opportunity for movement lawyers across the globe to share in community, raise critical questions regarding the growth of the field, and offer a resounding mandate to launch the first-ever global network of Movement Lawyers.
7) Resource Generation: In order to truly build the field of movement lawyering, The Lab works strategically to educate and organize philanthropy to understand the qualitative difference between movement lawyering and other types of lawyering. It collaborates with partners in philanthropy and the field to develop creative strategies to move resources (human and financial) to movement lawyering organizations for their sustainability.
In the past decade, Purvi has worked with over 10,000 lawyers and community organizers working on movement lawyering efforts, and in the last year alone, more than 5,000 of them have been engaged with The Lab’s activities. Through The Movement Law Lab and her global efforts, Purvi is incubating and accelerating a crop of new movement lawyering organizations, transforming the model of existing legal organizations and creating an active national and international network of movement lawyers.