Saturday, September 1, 2012

further response to Yale's view of legal writing professors

The blogs published this post and some interesting comments ensued, further explaining the continuing bias in the legal academy towards those of us who teach legal research and writing. 

hat tip: Lisa McElroy


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William Burton, the wonderful man who runs the Burton Foundation and presents the Annual Burton Awards for outstanding Legal Writing and Legal Writing teaching, has asked me to post this for him. Please appreciate that he is risking alienating some of his Yale grad board members and some of his distinguished awardees, including judges and lawyers who are Yale grads. He feels very strongly about improving the plight of Legal Writing professors and the courses they teach.


The groundswell of opposition to Yale Law School's policy of discounting or discarding letters of recommendation written by legal writing professors for aspiring transfer students has not abated.

While Associate Dean Asha Rangappa removed the controversial blog, the policy apparently remains in place. Specifically, the original posting stated: "A common mistake on this front is to make one of your two required recommendations from a legal writing instructor."

In more recent letter, the dean announced the blog had been removed but sidestepped the issue of the existing policy which obviously continues unimpeded. She stated: "I have been unable to find a way to accurately revise or supplement my original blog post without making it too complex to be of any practical use for a potential applicant."

While it is gratifying that the dean acknowledges the need to simplify complex issues and achieve clarity, it is equally as disappointing and disconcerting to learn that new policy has not yet been set.

A solution might be as follows: "One of the two letters of recommendation required to be written for applicants seeking to transfer can be submitted by a legal writing professor. In that case, the legal writing professor shall assess an applicant's comprehension of complex issues, conscientiousness, ability to reason, and aptitude to convey thoughts clearly and convincingly. The second letter must then be written by a core subject area professor who assesses the applicant's depth of knowledge in a particular field of law."

Perhaps an even simpler approach is to allow a third letter of recommendation to be written by a legal writing professor and submitted for an applicant seeking to transfer into Yale Law School.

Whatever new course of action is taken, meaningful reform is necessary. A change in policy is essential to acknowledge and appreciate that Legal writing professors are often the best judges to assess the chances of success in law.

William C. Burton, Esq.

Posted by: ralph brill | Sep 4, 2012 10:47:15 AM

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