Tuesday, September 14, 2021
By: Leslie Culver
Published in: Journal of Legal Education, Volume 69, Number 1 (Autumn 2019)
In this essay, I argue that viewing legal writing as a mode of gender sidelining uncovers the urgency for law schools to provide unitary tenure for legal writing programs across all law schools. I recognize that many legal writing faculty are employed under ABA Standard 405(c),4 a seemingly second-best option to traditional tenure tracks. As Professor Kathy Stanchi comments, however, while Standard 405(c) offers some respite from “job insecurity, intellectual disparagement, and pay inequity,” it ultimately serves as an “institutionalized bar to professional advancement divorced from any reasonable measure of merit.” This essay takes Stanchi’s framing of 405(c) as an irrational categorical exclusion of tenure despite meritorious performance, and extends her reasoning as further evidence of gender sidelining.
Well-established research, from both the ABA and legal scholars, demonstrates the longstanding marginalization and inequitable status of legal writing faculty within the academy. As evidence of this inequity, there has been a rise in conversion of legal writing programs to tenure-track positions. And this rise toward parity is the only systemic gesture that can combat the gendered barrier of white males who dominate the legal academy.
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I recognize that the inequality facing legal writing faculty is not novel. However, as this essay suggests, a gender sidelining framework demonstrates the need for a creative resolve that is bigger than any single community. To start, the legal writing community can take steps toward elevating our discipline by providing fundamental training for practitioners and adjuncts seeking to become full-time legal writing faculty.14 For example, prospective faculty need training on how to effectively deliver job talks that both elevate the discipline of legal writing and inform the traditional podium faculty as to the pedagogy and the interdisciplinary and integral foundations of legal writing across other first-year courses. Further, junior faculty would benefit from education on the need for and the value of professional development by way of conference participation, scholarship, and organizational participation in the legal writing community and more.