Doing Good While Doing Law

This interview was originally published in Above the Law on August 1, 2019.

Lawyers, from all walks of life, have been the true backbone of the “resistance” to President Donald Trump and the atrocities he commits in America’s name. It’s lawyers who are filing the injunctions that arrest or retard some of Donald Trump’s proposed human rights violations. It’s lawyers who are deployed to the concentration camps and try to help victims advocate for what rights they still may have. It’s lawyers who flood the airports, investigate corruption, and represent and try to elevate the claims of women who say the President of the United States sexually assaulted them. The people have not taken to the streets, the media continues to play a game of normalizing the president, but lawyers have kept their eyes on the ball.

And it’s not just public interest lawyers. Yes, lawyers who work for nonprofits like the ACLU have done a lot of the heavy lifting, but it was a Biglaw firm which defeated the Trump administration’s illegal attempt to revoke Temporary Protected Status to black and brown immigrants. Plaintiffs lawyers have exposed some of the crimes Trump has committed, and are the closest to forcing Trump to sit in a chair and speak under penalty of perjury. And individual attorneys who work at firms both big and small have donated their most valuable asset — their time — to Trump’s victims, even though “immigration law” or “family law” or “international human rights law” are not their fields of expertise.

For every lawyer who is directly involved in pushing back against the Trump administration, there is another who wants to get involved, but doesn’t quite know how. The question I get most often from lawyers I meet is… well, check that, the question I get most often is “AHHH! This is so bad and we’re all gonna die, right?” But the question I hear next is “What can I do, how can I help?”

For the rest of the summer, Above the Law is going to run a series of profiles about lawyers who have been in the fight. Hopefully these stories will help illustrate how others can join, and give people a taste of what they can expect if they devote even a small portion of their time towards being a part of the solution.

Our first interview is with Maxim Thorne. Thorne is the founder of JusticeInvestor, a crowdfunded litigation finance startup. He’s the managing director of the The Andrew Goodman Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that is non-partisan and focuses on registering and activating young voters. He’s taught philanthropy at Yale University, and has been involved in the lawsuit against Tennessee’s voter suppression law.

Our email interview has been edited for space. Questions are in bold.