Oil and Water: How Legal Education's Doctrine and Skills Divide Reproduces Toxic Hierarchies

25 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2015 Last revised: 3 Dec 2015

See all articles by Lucy A. Jewel

Lucy A. Jewel

University of Tennessee College of Law

Date Written: October 14, 2015


The longstanding categorical distinction that elevates doctrinal teaching over skills teaching continues to harm the profession of law. In this Article, I consider two distinct effects produced by the doctrine/skills dichotomy. First, the dichotomy is responsible for reinforcing class, gender, and race segmentation in legal education, which limits the quality of instruction that law schools can provide and abets the reproduction of existing power relations in the legal profession and society at large.

Second, the antipodal positioning of doctrine and theory over skills and practice harms law schools’ ability to prepare a new generation of law students to engage in both critical lawyering and law reform. As American society becomes increasingly unequal and as its criminal justice system barrels well past the breaking point, we desperately need the next generation of law students to participate in a new era of structural law reform. But unlike the last major era of reform in the United States (the Progressive Era), where ill-conceived top-down solutions were theorized and implemented by a small subset of elite lawyers, this time, reform should emerge from a coalition of lawyers hailing from all law schools and all levels of society. Even in legal education’s current situation, with tenure for law professors on the chopping block due to declining student enrollment and legal employment prospects, law schools should commit to collapsing the false binary between doctrine and skills.

Keywords: Legal Education, Lawyering, Skills, Social Change

Suggested Citation

Jewel, Lucille A., Oil and Water: How Legal Education's Doctrine and Skills Divide Reproduces Toxic Hierarchies (October 14, 2015). Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Vol. 31, No. 1, 2015, University of Tennessee Legal Studies Research Paper No. 281, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2674214

Lucille A. Jewel (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )

1505 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics