The Conservative Counterrevolution in American Law - Ann Southworth

Ann Southworth's paper will explore the influence on law and policy of the flourishing conservative legal movement in America.

The Centre for Innovation and Research in Legal Education and Centre for Law and Social Justice are delighted to welcome Prof. Ann Southworth to deliver a public seminar.


The American conservative legal movement is flourishing. Conservatives and libertarians exercise considerable influence on law and policy through an infrastructure of organizations, lawyers, and financial patrons. They have developed a deep bench of highly credentialed lawyers who hold prominent positions in law firms, advocacy organizations, think tanks, universities, and government. Republican administrations have drawn on that pool to make judicial appointments, which has significantly improved conservatives’ prospects for success in the courts. They have pursued ambitious advocacy campaigns and achieved major litigation victories on a host of issues, including guns, religious liberty, campaign finance, labor, and voting rights. The 2016 Presidential election has given the movement additional momentum, as President Trump has appointed judges recommended by conservative legal movement organizations and has begun to reduce the regulatory state in key areas, including health care, environmental policy, consumer protection, employment, and the use of federal land. 

This paper will consider four interrelated threads of the movement’s development: creating an infrastructure for conservative legal advocacy; remaking the judiciary and holding judges accountable; generating, legitimizing, and disseminating ideas to support legal change; and embracing legal activism to roll back government. I’ll then consider a continuing challenge for the movement: managing tensions among its several constituencies. Finally, I’ll suggest how this story has played out in the area of my current research – the campaign to deregulate campaign finance.  

Please note this event has been rescheduled to 16:00 from earlier in the day. 

About the speaker

Professor Ann Southworth teaches and writes on the legal profession and lawyers who serve causes, with an emphasis on lawyers’ norms, professional identities, practices, organizations, and networks. She participated in designing UC Irvine School of Law’s required first year course on the American legal profession, and is the co-author, with Catherine Fisk, of an interdisciplinary textbook, The Legal Profession. Ann has published numerous articles on civil rights and poverty lawyers, lawyers involved in national policy-making, and advocates for conservative and libertarian causes, as well as a book on the conservative legal movement, Lawyers of the Right: Professionalizing the Conservative Coalition. Her current research interests include the discourse, resources, strategies and networks of public interest law organizations and their lawyers. Most recently, she is studying lawyers and organizations involved in campaign finance litigation in the Roberts Court.

Prior to joining the founding faculty at UC Irvine School of Law, she was a law professor at Case Western Reserve and an affiliated scholar at the American Bar Foundation. She has been a visiting professor at Harvard and UCLA. She clerked for Judge Stanley A. Weigel and practiced at Morrison & Foerster, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the U.S. Department of Justice. She received her B.A. and J.D. degrees from Stanford University.

Register to attend Ann's seminar.

Location details

Moot Court,
School of Law
Liberty Building
University of Leeds

For sat navs, please use the postcode for Moorland Road, LS6 1AN. 

The Liberty Building can also be found on the campus map

All welcome. This is a free event, though registration is required.

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