Beyond Zero-Sum Games: Multiculturalism as Enriched Law Training for All Students

23 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2010

See all articles by David Dominguez

David Dominguez

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Date Written: February 10, 2010


Cultural diversity in legal education is a worthy goal when it actively helps all students to reexamine their limited perceptions of justice through a new, negotiable matrix. The full promise of a law school's affirmative action efforts is realized when all students understand and experience for themselves the educational benefit of a multicultural community.

Negotiable learning makes good on the law school recruiter's promise to all applicants that cultural diversity is not simply about being at the law school but can become a training medium for multicultural lawyering. It teaches all students how to work through – not run from – racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry. In so doing, negotiable learning answers the cry for multicultural justice with something better than substantive reform of the legal canon and the addition of more nontraditional law students, faculty, and courses. It builds a learning process throughout the law school curriculum which teaches all students how they, together, can infuse fresh blood into society's anemic response to cultural conflict.

Law school in general and multicultural interaction in particular are too often experienced as zero-sum contests and zero-sum negotiation. When one member or one segment of the community is awarded a prize, it appears to come at another's expense. Whether the winnings are admission slots, top grades, job placements, or co-curricular activities, law students are keenly aware of the intense competition for scarce commodities. The harsh reality for the losers is that law school becomes the first academic setting where the reigning negotiation dynamics work against their self-esteem and confidence. But instead of questioning whether legal education ought to be a learning process driven by distributive bargaining and zero-sum outcomes, law students tend to direct their frustration toward the apparent culprits: each other.

This article argues that cultural diversity, even in a zero-sum environment, can generate joint-gain instructional methods that enrich the law training of all students. I report on my five-year classroom experiment taking educational advantage of diversities among the law students at Brigham Young University. In Part I, I described the catalytic role of the law teacher in exploiting the educational value of diverse life backgrounds and perspectives. Part II turns to the expanded role of students in the negotiable learning process. The third and final phase of negotiable learning, discussed in Part III, impresses upon students that multicultural lawyering is a professional commitment to shared responsibility and shared risk. It is the shared responsibility to transform zero-sum games into integrative processes that value cultural differences. Equally important, it is the shared risk of increased cultural strife should the students, as eventual leaders in the community, fail to do so.

Keywords: Multicultural legal education, conflict resolution, negotiation, inter-cultural relationships, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, diversity

Suggested Citation

Dominguez, David, Beyond Zero-Sum Games: Multiculturalism as Enriched Law Training for All Students (February 10, 2010). Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 44, pp. 175-197, 1994, Available at SSRN:

David Dominguez (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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