Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Legal writing professors rally after demeaning statement

The legal writing professors' listserv is abuzz today after Lisa McElroy posted some language from the Yale Law website. It urges prospective transfer students to submit two letters of recommendation--but preferably NOT from legal writing "instructors."  Instead, the admissions director advises, letters should come from "your first year core subject area professors, who can speak to your ability to keep up with the subject material, contribute to class discussion, and think through difficult concepts." Contributors to the legal writing list have found this statement objectionable on many levels. One called it the "smoking gun" that documents an attitude we all knew was out there. Another said it shows how unknowledgeable some in legal academia are about what we actually do. Keeping up with subject material and thinking through difficult concepts are key abilities students need to succeed in our courses!

List contributors have discussed formulating some kind of response to Yale's language. Watch this spot for further information.


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I noticed that the post on the Yale Law website is over a year old. The title of this post ("Legal writing professors rally after demeaning statement") implies that the insult is fresh, but really, it is only freshly-discovered.

I don't mean to diminish the importance of making some kind of response. After years of reading badly-written briefs, it's clear to me that the legal community underestimates the importance of learning to write well. And as a consequence, the legal community similarly undervalues legal writing professors. Both of these problems need to be corrected, and when they are, the legal profession as a whole will benefit.

So yes, the Yale Law blog post is insulting and elitist and symptomatic of a larger problem in the training of new lawyers. But it's also over a year old.

Posted by: Brom | Aug 16, 2012 12:53:21 PM

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