Community paralegals demystify law and empower people to advocate for themselves. They are at the heart of our movement for justice. But they have been largely ignored by scholars and writers.

A new book by Namati’s CEO, Vivek Maru, and World Bank senior economist Varun Gauri starts to fill that void. It’s been a long time coming — it’s the product of 8 years of research and writing by 14 authors across 6 countries.

Each chapter is rich with vivid accounts of paralegals helping communities to take on injustice, from domestic violence to unlawful mining to denial of wages. From these stories emerges evidence of what works and how.

The book explores questions like:

  • How have community paralegals adapted to and influenced their changing political contexts, from repressive regimes like apartheid South Africa to newfound democracies and, in some cases, back towards repression?
  • Is it possible for paralegals to receive public funding without sacrificing their independence?
  • What are five qualities of the most effective paralegals, and how can organizations nurture those qualities?

This book, says Maru, is for all of us. “I hope it will make us better at what we do, and bring attention to our cause.”

You can download a PDF copy of the book for free from the Cambridge University Press website.

We’d love to hear what you think. Do the lessons the book draws about paralegals and legal empowerment ring true to you? How do the experiences described compare with your own? Share your thoughts with our community here.

What people are saying about Community Paralegals and the Pursuit of Justice…

“A must-read… If ‘access to justice’ is an abstraction to you, it won’t be once you read the stories in these pages of paralegals and clients seeking justice. Those stories are unforgettable. They hold lessons for all of us.”

-Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, current chair of The Elders

“Thoroughly original…Anyone interested in the future of law and justice will have to reckon with this book.”

-Pratap Mehta, Vice-Chancellor, Ashoka University

“Frontline legal advocates can help people turn law into the guarantor of equality it is supposed to be. This book shows us how.”

-Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative

“[A] powerful … guide to understanding one of the most promising emerging fields in the world today… Each individual story is inspiring, and the global potential of this profession to change countless lives is thrilling.”

-Ricken Patel, Founder and CEO, Avaaz – The World in Action.

Notable Replies

  1. Faith says:

    Dear Viveck, Thank you very much for sharing this and the good work Namati is doing in Access to Justice space.

    Kind regards,

    Faith.

  2. Thanks for sharing. This is great work and very inspirational cases that involves paralegals, I cant wait to read it and share with paralegal organizations in Zanzibar, Tanzania

  3. Thank you very much for sharing. Is there some specific requirement to work as a community paralegal in Canada? Is it something different from the paralegal occupation which is regulated in Ontario? Thank you very much. Alexandar.

  4. @vivekmaru congratulations on the publishing of this book! I’m trying to purchase a hard copy online, but with no luck. The Cambridge Press site only gives me the option to add it to my “wishlist” but not to purchase. Do you know of a reputable online site where I can purchase a hard copy?

    Thanks, -L

  5. Thank you for flagging @lorenzowakefield. And great to see you last week. @mckinleycharles or @vivektrivedi do you know what the deal is re. hard copies?

    @APAVLOV community paralegals tend to be different from the traditional paralegals. (see p. 2-3 in the book). Ontario does have a remarkable experience with both though- check out work by @michelemleering.

    v

  6. Hi @lorenzowakefield,

    I tried to order it on Cambridge Press site and it let me, and gave me an option to ship to South Africa. I am not sure why it wasn’t working for you. Perhaps the page didn’t load correctly.

    I clicked on the link above, clicked ‘buy the print book’ and it led me to this page. From there, I clicked “add to cart”. When I continue on to the checkout page, it lets me select which country to deliver to from a dropdown menu. See screenshot below.

    If you try this and still have problems, let me know and I will reach out to Cambridge.

    cc: @vivekmaru

  7. Dear Vivek, Thank you very much for the information. Are the community paralegals licenced? From what I know Ontario is the only province where the paralegal profession is regulated. Alexandar

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