A Hard Day's Night: Hierarchy, History & Happiness in Legal Education

57 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2008

See all articles by Michael L. Rustad

Michael L. Rustad

Suffolk University Law School

Thomas H. Koenig

Northeastern University


This Article presents a social history of the struggles of Boston's nontraditional students to break into the legal profession by studying in evening law schools. Suffolk Evening Law School was founded in 1906 as a counter-hegemonic institution, explicitly dedicated to the democratization of legal education by challenging the pedagogy and recruitment practices of Harvard and the other elite day schools. Twenty-first century graduates of the most prestigious day law schools continue to thrive in a relatively charmed legal environment, but the legal hierarchy has been destabilized by a growing emphasis upon achievement over ascription. Suffolk's evening law students, for example, often have a competitive advantage in fields such as intellectual property because the leading Boston law firms recruit disproportionately from the software engineers, biotechnology researchers, and other scientists who work as patent agents by day and study law at night. While the evening law school movement of the early twentieth century did much to replace ascription with meritocracy, the equal opportunity revolution remains incomplete because of the continuing influence of the legal stratification system upon the careers of the alumni of low ranking law schools.

Suggested Citation

Rustad, Michael L. and Koenig, Thomas H., A Hard Day's Night: Hierarchy, History & Happiness in Legal Education. Syracuse Law Review, Vol. 58, p. 261, 2008, Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 08-13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1126261

Michael L. Rustad (Contact Author)

Suffolk University Law School ( email )

120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States

Thomas H. Koenig

Northeastern University ( email )

220 B RP
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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