Legal Writing as Office Housework?

Forthcoming, Journal of Legal Education Symposium

12 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2019

See all articles by Mary Bowman

Mary Bowman

Seattle University School of Law; Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Date Written: September 5, 2019


This essay examines persistent status issues that legal writing faculty face through the lens of Joan Williams’s “office housework” paradigm. Office housework includes tasks that are not valuable for career advancement, even when they are necessary for an organization’s success. Williams’s research shows significant gender and racial disparities across industries in who carries disproportionate burdens of office housework. These disparities mirror the disparities seen when comparing the composition of legal writing faculties to the composition of law school faculties generally, as well as the salary and security of position disparities between the two groups.

Applying this paradigm, the essay argues that legal writing faculty disproportionately bear the burden of three types of office housework:

(1) important but undervalued assignments (e.g. providing detailed formative assessment);

(2) emotional labor (e.g. dealing with student upset by providing grades before our colleagues do); and

(3) work that sounds impressive but is undervalued for salary or promotion purposes (e.g. service obligations and directing legal writing programs).

The essay then offers preliminary thoughts on strategic solutions that law schools could use to rectify persistent status disparities faced by legal writing faculty.

Keywords: legal writing, office housework, salary, security of position, status, gender

Suggested Citation

Bowman, Mary, Legal Writing as Office Housework? (September 5, 2019). Forthcoming, Journal of Legal Education Symposium , Available at SSRN: or

Mary Bowman (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Phoenix, AZ
United States
4809653501 (Phone)
85044-4467 (Fax)

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