Monday, March 13, 2023
Etienne C. Toussaint on "The Purpose of Legal Education"
Etienne C. Toussaint has posted forthcoming work on SSRN titled The Purpose of Legal Education. This article is to be published in Volume 111 of the California Law Review (2023). The abstract previews:
When President Donald Trump launched an assault on diversity training, critical race theory, and The 1619 Project in September 2020 as “divisive, un-American propaganda,” many law students were presumably confused. After all, law school has historically been doctrinally neutral, racially homogenous, and socially hierarchical. In most core law school courses, colorblindness and objectivity trump critical legal discourse on issues of race, gender, or sexuality. Yet, such disorientation reflects a longstanding debate over the fundamental purpose of law school. As U.S. law schools develop antiracist curricula and expand their experiential learning programs to produce so-called practice-ready lawyers for the crises exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, scholars continue to question whether and how, if at all, the purpose of law school converges with so
This Article argues that the anti-racist, democratic, and movement lawyering principles advocated by progressive legal scholars should not be viewed merely as aspirational ideals for social justice law courses. Rather, querying whether legal systems and political institutions further racism, economic oppression, or social injustice must be viewed as endemic to the fundamental purpose of legal education. In so doing, this Article makes three important contributions to the literature on legal education and philosophical legal ethics. First, it clarifies how two ideologies—functionalism and neoliberalism—have threatened to drift law school’s historic public purpose away from the democratic norms of public citizenship, inflicting law students, law faculty, and the legal academy with an existential identity crisis. Second, it explores historical mechanisms of institutional change within law schools that reveal diverse notions of law school’s purpose as historically contingent. Such perspectives are shaped by the behaviors, cultural attitudes, and ideological beliefs of law faculty operating within particular social, political, and economic contexts. Third, and finally, it demonstrates the urgency of moving beyond liberal legalism in legal education by integrating critical legal theories and movement law principles throughout the entire law school curriculum.