Gender and Legal Writing: Law School's Dirty Little Secrets
Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law
Jan M. Levine
Duquesne University School of Law
Berkeley Women's Law Journal, Vol. 16, No. 3, 2001
While great strides have been made by legal writing professors in the past two decades, many law schools - perhaps most accurately, many law school deans - try to avoid the investments needed to provide their students with professional, high-quality instruction in legal research and legal writing. Law professors, including women law professors, have reacted to their deans' decisions to maintain the status quo largely by quiet acquiescence - although in some cases they openly support that stance. Legal writing seems to be just too hard, and too demanding in time and energy, to be taught by doctrinal law professors, most of whom are men who feel they have better things to do.
This essay offers an explanation about how law schools arrived at this uncomfortable place. It reveals the depth of the salary differentials between legal writing teachers, their faculty colleagues down the hall, and the students who have just received their degrees. The essay then explains how these gender-based disparities and disdain for law practice have become institutionalized and validated by the American Bar Association's Standards for Approval of Law Schools. It summarizes the recent actions that legal writing teachers have taken to secure for themselves the status, stature, and pay afforded to other law faculty. Finally, we focus on legal research and writing professors' work to create a standard of writing instruction on which students can rely to begin their practice of law successfully.
Keywords: Legal writing, legal education, faculty, legal research and writing, feminist theory, survey, pay, status, ABA accreditation
JEL Classification: K00
Date posted: April 3, 2007