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February 18, 2021 The Civil Rights Lawyer Webinar Series

The Civil Rights Lawyer: Social Engineer

The late civil rights champion, former Howard Law Dean, Mentor of Thurgood Marshall, and co-founder of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Charles Hamilton Houston, forewarned his law students that “a lawyer is either a social engineer or parasite on society.”

The second part of the series, The Civil Rights Lawyer: Perspectives on the Profession, builds upon the vision for good that Houston believed lawyers can play in constructing a more equitable society. Part 2: Social Engineer, commemorates Black History Month, recognizing lawyers who are working to engineer a more racially just country. It features civil rights lawyers working for racial justice in various arenas, including academia, litigation, and policy.

They embody what Houston outlined as his vision of a social engineer: “A social engineer [is] a highly skilled, perceptive, sensitive lawyer who [understands] the Constitution of the United States and [knows] how to explore its uses in the solving of problems of local communities and in bettering conditions of the underprivileged citizens.” This program seeks to inform and inspire, future and current civil rights lawyers.

Please stay tuned for the last two parts of this series! This four-part series will provide insights and perspectives about pursuing a career in the realm of civil rights law. Panelists will include: law professors, policy advocates, civil rights litigators, public interest lawyers, federal agency attorneys, law clerks, and a range of others who will discuss their career trajectories and lessons learned in their work to advance civil rights.


  • Gaylynn Burroughs, Senior Policy Counsel, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Dr. Greg E. Carr, Associate Professor of Africana Studies, Howard University; Chair, Department of Afro-American Studies, Howard University
  • Maritza Perez, Director, National Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance
  • Ajmel Quereshi, Senior Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund


  • Choi T. Portis, Deputy General Counsel, City of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department; Chair-Elect, ABA Young Lawyers Division

Co-Sponsors: ABA Center for Public Interest LawABA Law Student DivisionABA Young Lawyers Division


Transcript: The Civil Rights Lawyer: Perspectives on the Profession

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