Stepping into the Fight: A Guide for Nonprofits to Understand and Engage in Legal Advocacy

Published: August 2016

Type: Publication

What is legal advocacy and how can advocates examine their readiness to engage in it? TCC Group offers guidance.

Deepti Sood
Jared Raynor

Legal advocacy – also known as advocacy through the courts – uses the judicial system to advance social change goals. This is often done through bringing forward a legal case in court that focuses on improving a situation for a particular group of people. Legal advocacy is a critical tool to protect and defend our fundamental constitutional rights.

Take for example, Brown v. Board of Education, a classic example of legal advocacy, which argued that separate schools were inherently unequal in an era when legislation on school integration was unlikely to change. Floyd v. City of New York is another example where legal advocacy helped reform the discriminatory police practice of stop-and-frisk (watch TCC Group’s short video for more on this case).

This guide introduces advocates to the concept of legal advocacy, shares implications that legal advocacy can have for other kinds of advocacy work, talks through partnering for legal advocacy, and shares what outcomes can be achieved through using legal advocacy as a strategy.


This resource was part of the Atlas Learning Project, an initiative to draw on the considerable experiences and insights of The Atlantic Philanthropies as its grantmaking came to a close. The Atlas Learning Project was a three-year effort coordinated by the Center for Evaluation Innovation to synthesize and share lessons from advocacy and policy change efforts that Atlantic and other funders have supported in the U.S., with the goal of helping push philanthropy and advocacy in bolder and more effective directions.

Other Resources on Legal Advocacy