Elephant in the Room

Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 20

13 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2020 Last revised: 8 Apr 2022

See all articles by Patrick Barry

Patrick Barry

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: December 22, 2020


Over the past several decades, the student population at law schools across the country has become more and more racially diverse. In 1987, for example, only about 1 in every 10 law students identified as a person of color; by 2019, that percentage shot up to almost 1 out of 3.

Yet take a look at virtually any collection of recommended manuals on writing. You are unlikely to find even one that is authored by a person of color. The composition of law schools may be dramatically changing, but the materials that students are given to help them figure out how to put together documents that are proper, persuasive, and professional are designed pretty much exclusively by white people. “To write right,” we seem to be saying, “you need to write white.”

This essay describes an in-class exercise that was used to highlight that bias. It also shares an out-of-class assignment that successfully pushed students to broaden their mental library of exemplars.

Keywords: Persuasion, Race, Bias, Writing, Editing, Advocacy, Pedagogy

JEL Classification: K1

Suggested Citation

Barry, Patrick James, Elephant in the Room (December 22, 2020). Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, vol. 20, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3753630 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3753630

Patrick James Barry (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States
734.763.2276 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: https://www.law.umich.edu/FacultyBio/Pages/FacultyBio.aspx?FacID=barrypj

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics