This paper arises from a comparative research project on 'Lawyers, Conflict and Transition' (https://lawyersconflictandtransition.org) funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Seeking to advance the rich socio-legal scholarship on cause lawyers, this project put a spotlight on the lived experience of lawyers who work in societies shaped by political conflict or those emerging from conflict or authoritarianism. Drawing on extensive interviews (170 male and female lawyers and political activists) in a range of conflicted, authoritarian or transitional societies including South Africa, Israel/Palestine, Cambodia, Chile, Tunisia and Northern Ireland the presentation will begin with an overview of some of the particular challenges for cause-lawyers in conflict and transition, including how lawyers engage with: politically motivated clients and the movements to which they belong, authoritarian states, and other mainstream lawyers. Given that much of the existing literature on such contexts is shaped by a ‘stag effect’ – a disproportionate focus on the activities of male lawyers and ‘masculine’ causes – the paper will then attempt to draw out the intersection between gender and cause-lawyering – with a particular focus on the strategies and tactics of female cause lawyers. It will thus examine: how they manage the challenges and paradoxical opportunities presented by conflict and transition; the ways in which they engage with real and imagined understandings of struggle (e.g. the gender equality movement versus the struggle against apartheid or the Israeli occupation); and the extent to which the gender issues highlighted by these women resonates with the broader literature on the sociology of the legal profession and transitional justice. To conclude, the paper will reflect on the ‘exceptionalism’ critique of transitional justice and the extent to which the work of female cause lawyers speaks to the exercise of agency and responsibility.
Anna Bryson is an interdisciplinary scholar working at the interface of socio-legal studies, transitional justice and oral history. She is currently engaged in research on three RCUK funded projects: Lawyers, Conflict and Transition (https://lawyersconflictandtransition.org/); Apologies, Abuses and Dealing with the Past: A Socio-Legal Analysis (https://apologies-abuses-past.org.uk/); and Brexit and Northern Ireland: The Constitutional, Conflict Transformation, Human Rights and Equality Consequences (https://brexitlawni.org/). Arising out of these projects and earlier research on the history of political conflict in Ireland she has published three books, more than a dozen articles, specialist reports and a co-edited special issue on transitional justice. Since 2014 she has been working on a legacy of conflict project (focusing on the legislative, policy and political requirements for the successful implementation of the Stormont House Agreement). In 2016 she won a QUB Vice-Chancellor’s Impact Prize for her work on the Oral History Archive element of this work. Anna is a member of the AHRC’s peer review college and a Fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. She is also vice-chair of the Human Rights NGO, the Committee on the Administration of Justice and serves on the board of Diversity Challenges. She is the Northern Ireland lead for the UK Oral History Society, providing advice, support and accredited training to a wide range of academic, community and voluntary organisations.