William & Mary Law Review


There is a vast and growing cause lawyering literature demonstrating how attorneys and their relationship to social justice movements matter greatly for law’s ability to engender progress. But to date, there has been no examination of the work of ADA disability cause lawyers as cause lawyers. Similarly, despite an extensive literature focused on the ADA’s revolutionary civil rights aspects and the manner in which the Supreme Court’s interpretation of that statute has stymied potential transformation of American society, no academic accounts of disability law have focused on the lawyers who bring these cases. This Article responds to these scholarly voids. We conducted in-depth interviews with many of the nation’s leading disability rights cause lawyers. What we found makes three novel contributions. As the first examination of the activities of these public interest lawyers and their advocacy, it brings to light a neglected sector of an otherwise well-examined field. In doing so, this Article complements, but also complicates, the cause lawyering literature by presenting a vibrant and successful cohort of social movement lawyers who in some ways emulate their peers and in other ways have a unique perspective and mode of operation. The Article also forces a reconsideration of academic critiques of the efficacy and transformative potential of the ADA because it demonstrates how disability cause lawyers have effectively utilized the statute to achieve social integration in the shadow of the Court’s restrictive jurisprudence.