Mentoring the Other: Cultural Pluralist Approaches to Access to Justice
Posted: 5 Jun 2001
The central concern of this paper is to understand the potential that informal institutions, like mentorship, hold to promote diversity in the legal profession, including academe. The paper starts from the premise that it is necessary to look at the ways in which informal institutions may simultaneously be sites that reproduce exclusionary practices and affirming spaces to promote inclusion.
The paper will first critique some of the contemporary literature that focuses on the importance of role models to the project of diversifying law schools, and in the process explain why it is distinct from mentoring. It will pause to explore the assumptions about representation and access contained within this literature.
The paper will then look at the characteristics of mentoring, and render explicit some of its prerequisites. The dearth of scholarship on this topic, contrasted with the implicit understanding that most successful academics have of the importance of solid mentoring relationships, will be drawn upon as a starting point to explore the informal aspects of this relationship. Feminist scholarship on another informal institution, the family, that challenges the border between the public and the private, will be called upon to work through the relational dimensions of mentoring.
The third section of the paper will draw upon the scholarship on cultural pluralism and critical race theory, which seeks to look more directly at the link between identity and access to justice. It will assess to what extent mentoring can sustain difference, and whether it can consciously be drawn upon to promote it.
Finally, the paper will consider whether those who see mentoring as a method to promote access to justice should embrace traditional, informal mechanisms, or whether they should prefer formal mentorship programmes.
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