Course Catalog

Law and Public Leadership for Social Change Seminar (2)

Courses in leadership often focus on the achievements, characteristics, and behaviors of men and women whom scholars and the lay public have come to acknowledge as “the great men and women of history” – the various governors, military leaders, etc., whose names fill our textbooks and whose statues fill our public space. Courses in history, sociology, and politics often focus instead on the zeitgeist, or spirit of the times, and the evolutions in thought and practice which have led, seeming inexorably, toward significant social change. This course takes a different approach: it focus instead on the passionate undertakings of ordinary men and women who take it upon themselves to bring about a change in the societies of which they are a part.

Some of these men and women may, as a result of their work, come to be seen, eventually, as the great leaders of an age, Martin Luther King, Jr., being a notable example. Yet the work King did to advance the causes of equality and justice was immeasurably helped by the passion and commitment of men like Thurgood Marshall and Leon Higginbotham who brought to the civil rights movement the benefit of their legal training and ability to formulate effective legal strategies. The campaign for racial justice was won not only in the streets but in the court rooms. Like Dr. King, who began as a young minister in a mid-sized Southern city, holding no public office and unknown even to many in his own community, Marshall, Higginbotham and others who eventually achieved great recognition for their efforts began not as household names but simply as lawyers committed to a great cause and who asked of themselves the most important question in any democracy: “What kind of society do I want to live in? How can I bring that about?”

This passionate commitment of lawyers to justice has taken many forms: in the labor movement, in campaigns for civil liberties, in such causes as “The Innocence Project” and “The Constitution Project”. Whether working for what are perceived as “liberal” causes or “conservative” causes, public leadership has always been an avenue for men and women trained in the law to make a mark on society.

It is the purpose of this course to help students understand how American public policy has been influenced by the actions of unelected, unofficial, self-empowered citizens, and particularly those who can bring to those great quests an expertise in the law. The course will also examine how those changes were brought about – the development of effective messages, the building of alliances, the devising of strategies – so these students can learn how they, too, can become leaders in shaping American society.

Current & Previous Instructors:

This course is not currently scheduled.


Key to Codes in Course Descriptions
P: Prerequisite
C: Prerequisite or Concurrent Requirement
R: Recommended Prior or Concurrent Course

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500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 PHONE: (410) 706-7214 FAX: (410) 706-4045 / TDD: (410) 706-7714

Copyright © 2014, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved