The primary reason that the National Lawyers Guild has not only survived for over seventy years, but has continued to grow, is its unique flexibility. The Guild's current structure has been determined by the reality of the political times, and the needs, size, and geographical distribution of our membership. In order for the Guild to function at a national level, it is broken down into the following entities:
Chapters are the lifeblood of the Guild. There must be a minimum of eight dues paying members to form a chapter. Chapter members can be lawyers, legal workers, law students, or jailhouse lawyers. For most chapters, dues are billed by the National Office and a portion of each member's dues is returned to the chapter to help finance its work. There are currently about 120 Guild chapters. For a complete list, visit our chapters page.
Of the Guild’s chapters, five are staffed chapters, which function in an autonomous manner. They have at least one staff person, collect their own dues, and maintain their own database. Members of staffed chapters receive the same publications and materials made available by the National Office. In you live in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Massachusetts, or Michigan, you belong to a staffed chapter.
Law students have been members of the Guild since 1970. They may be members of a local chapter and a law school chapter if one exists at their school. Law school chapters operate more or less autonomously, but are encouraged to collaborate with any nearby local chapters. Law student members are encouraged to join their local Guild chapter after graduation.
Jailhouse lawyers are prison or jail inmates who provide legal services to other inmates. Since 1971 they have been eligible for full membership in the Guild. Membership for jailhouse attorneys is free.
The Guild has divided the country up into nine geographical regions: Far West, Midatlantic, Mideast, Midwest, Northeast, Northwest, South, Southwest, and Tex‑Oma. All chapters and members are part of a region. Each region chooses its own Regional Vice President who represents the region on the National Executive Committee. Additionally, each region has an annual conference.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) is the governing body of the NLG. It is composed of a nationally-elected president, two executive vice‑presidents, a treasurer, two national law student vice-presidents, one national legal worker vice-president, one national jailhouse lawyer vice-president, a regional vice-president from each region, the executive director, a representative of the National Office staff and representatives from ten of the NLG projects and national committees. Each of these members has a vote on issues that arise between conventions. The NEC meets quarterly, usually in January, April, July and October.
There are over 20 national committees, projects, and task forces. Visit the committees page for a complete list. Because these committees reflect current political/legal issues upon which the organization places priority, they are not static. All Guild members are encouraged to join committees and participate in their work. Committees assess their own dues which can be paid directly to the committee or through the National Office in conjunction with membership dues. New national committees may be formed with the consent of the convention or the NEC when there is sufficient interest among the membership and the proposed focus of the committee reflects the priorities of the organization.
The annual convention of the National Lawyers Guild is the highest decision making body. Conventions are held annually and include skills seminars, major panel discussions, and a large number of workshops on a wide variety of issues. Conventions are hosted by a different Guild chapter each year. NEC elections take place at the convention. Resolutions are also presented for consideration by the membership during this time. Rules for the presentation of Resolutions are available from the National Office.
The National Office (NO) is primarily a coordinating and administrative center for the organization. Made up of four to five people, including the executive director, the NO staff keeps the various parts of the organization functioning smoothly.