Philosophy v. Rhetoric in Legal Education: Understanding the Schism between Doctrinal and Legal Writing Faculty

21 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2008


If we legal writing faculty know one thing for sure, it is that what we teach is absolutely essential to our students' success, yet it continues to be grossly, even embarrassingly, undervalued in legal education. Doctrinal legal faculty perpetuate the view that legal education is a philosophical endeavor that focuses on the truth about the nature of law and, in the twenty-first century, on the law's ability to serve justice in a multicultural America. Because of their political power, however, doctrinal faculty are able to preserve the task of truth finding for themselves. Since the nature of truth is independent of its practical application, those of us who teach legal writing are simply not part of the academy's intellectual enterprise. At best, we teach a process for conveying truth, and at worst, we teach students how to engage in the process of manipulation and domination. I do not presume to have all the answers on how to achieve the goals of recognition for legal writing faculty and necessary preparation for law students. However, first and foremost, we need to say it like it is. We teach a complex and sophisticated art form that combines the acquisition of knowledge - the law itself - and its application - persuasive technique. In sum, we teach legal reasoning as much as doctrinal faculty do, and as twentieth century legal scholarship demonstrates, that process not only seeks knowledge, it generates knowledge. Second, instead of settling for composition and grammar, we must reclaim the substance of rhetoric and teach it. Our scholarship, too, should explore the substantive aspects of rhetoric, and the rich world of modern rhetorical theory is our oyster.

Keywords: philosophy, rhetoric, legal education, doctrinal faculty, legal writing, legal writing faculty, legal reasoning, legal scholarship

Suggested Citation

Tiscione, Kristen Konrad, Philosophy v. Rhetoric in Legal Education: Understanding the Schism between Doctrinal and Legal Writing Faculty. Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors, Vol. 3, Available at SSRN:

Kristen Konrad Tiscione (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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