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Civil Rights

What is a Lawyer Ally?

By November 17, 2020January 31st, 2024No Comments

As we all know, the police can sometimes have a reputation for being aggressive with protesters — especially protesters of color. 

At the Jacqui Ford Law Firm, we are dedicated to being LAWYER ALLIES to our brothers and sisters peacefully utilizing their First Amendment rights. 

We ourselves have participated in protests in our personal lives, and have attended protests in our role as attorneys, as well. 

What is a lawyer ally?

Because of our training and education, lawyers act as advocates. 

When we are acting as lawyer allies, however, we are advocating for justice more generally, without a specific client in mind.

One of the main ways we do this is by defending the rights of protesters to utilize their First Amendment rights to protest legally and peacefully, and supporting them if this right is challenged. The goal is to educate and empower citizens and community members.

Additionally, we can use our training to help advocate for just causes by writing to and speaking with legislators and political leaders who might otherwise ignore or disregard messages from protesters or advocates from other channels. 

So what does being a lawyer ally look like?

Being a lawyer ally at protests and demonstrations

In the context of protests and public demonstrations, a lawyer ally attends these events not to take part in the protest or intervene, but to observe what is happening and to record and document what occurs.

It’s important to make this distinction about observing and not engaging in the protest, however. This distinction can be difficult for lawyers who like to wear an activist hat and a lawyer hat.

Our role at these demonstrations is to document what’s occurring and prevent police from being able to lie about what happened down the road, but we are not a part of the story. Organizations like The National Lawyers Guild organize these mass defense practices by providing trainings and workshops and by assembling what they refer to as Legal Observers® to act in this lawyer ally role at demonstrations.  

Being a lawyer ally to demonstrators from your home 

One of the most important acts of a lawyer ally can be done from the comfort of your own home — legal hotlines. Legal hotlines are ways for protesters or lawyer allies at demonstrations to contact attorneys for representation or advice when arrests or violence may be happening. 

Most of these hotlines are not staffed 24/7, but are organized before a known protest is about to happen. Many times Jacqui has received calls as a protest is winding down from demonstrators wondering whether they’ve been given a real number and seeking advise or counsel in real time. She always tells them, “Yes, this is real. I’m a lawyer. How can I help you?”

Lawyer allies can also assist from their home or office by compiling all the lawyer ally videos taken at demonstrations and organizing them into digitized databases. However, it’s important to remember that sometimes arrests are made after police have seen this online footage of the protests, and these photos, videos, and the people in them should be well protected.

Being a lawyer ally in the courtroom (or government building)

Other lawyer allies use their position as legal advocates in the courtroom to do their part to uphold justice — particularly defending protesters who are actually charged with a crime after the fact.

Other times, lawyer allies can work with protesters in their role as attorneys to speak at public meetings or in government buildings and use the technical and legal language that government officials and legislators will relate to.

How to become a lawyer ally 

The National Lawyers Guild has chapters around the country that provide training for becoming an official Legal Observer®.

Being a lawyer ally more generally, however, can come via training and mentorship from all sorts of attorneys and professionals who have spent their careers fighting for justice.

To learn more about our efforts as lawyer allies and to join our fight contact Jacqui Ford Law today.