Friday, May 5, 2023

Dividing Law Schools into Academic Departments: A Potential Solution to the Doctrinal Hierarchy/Gender Skills in Legal Education

Larry Cunningham (Dean, Charleston; Academic google), Dividing law school faculties into academic departments: a possible solution to the gendered doctrinal/skills hierarchy in legal education, 67 Will. he rev. 679 (2022):

Most law schools in the United States are organized in internal hierarchies. In a given school, those professors who teach doctrinal subjects have more power and benefits, while those who teach skill courses, such as legal writing and clinicals, have less. In many schools, this hierarchy has a gender dynamic. Tenured professors of doctrine are more likely to be men, while clinical and legal writing professors are more female. This illegitimate hierarchy of status is detrimental to students. The hierarchy is also well documented through decades of scholarly articles on the subject.

This article proposes a structural solution to the problem: the creation and use of academic departments in law schools. Modern universities are organized in this way in recognition that teaching and scholarship are often specialized. Teaching and research in the Physics Department are different from those in the Philosophy Department. Departmentalization allows for the development of specialized standards of teaching and scholarship while treating those with teaching roles as equals, regardless of subject.

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A law school could easily implement this type of structure by creating a Department of Legal Doctrine, a Department of Legal Writing, and a Department of Clinical Legal Education. Other possibilities exist, such as an Academic Support Department and a department dedicated to librarians with faculty status. Each department would have equal status but would be free to develop its own standards of excellence for teaching, scholarship, and service. Law school-wide committees could be created for curriculum, admissions, budget, and academic standards, just as they now exist in colleges and schools within universities.

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