TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Legal Writing Professors: A Story Of A Hierarchy Within A Hierarchy

Following up on my previous posts (links below):  LawProfBlawg, Legal Writing Professors: A Story Of A Hierarchy Within A Hierarchy:

Today’s column is about a different type of hierarchy in academia. This column is dedicated to some of the hard-working colleagues who go to faculty meetings but don’t speak much, who do a lot of the thankless committee work at many schools, and who spend more time with students than most other law professors. The colleagues who, for the most part, don’t have tenure, get paid a lot less, and in many schools often have smaller offices away from their tenured companions. ...

Good data exists about the structures afforded to legal writing professors, because they actually take meaningful surveys with data. For the 2017 survey, only 21 percent of the legal writing professors described themselves as being in traditional tenure or tenure track positions. About 7 percent involve programmatic tenure. The remainder of legal writing professors are in either 405(c) status (longer term, presumptively renewable contracts), short-term non-renewable, or in five-year or more contracts that are not presumptively renewable. In other words, a lot of legal writing professors are in precarious positions.

Who are these hard-working people in precarious positions?  We can even get a snapshot of race and gender in legal writing.  According to LWIOnline data, nearly 88 percent of the faculty are white, and about 2/3 of the faculty are women.  These facts, along with the financial disparity (low pay) afforded to legal writing professors have caused some to call it a “pink ghetto.”  Even there, Professor Durako’s research shows that women legal writing directors earn less than male counterparts, teach a narrower range of courses than their male counterparts, and are less likely to be in that tenure or tenure-track path than their male counterparts.  And, the more the job title and responsibilities approaches that of doctrinal faculty, the more likely that position is to be filled by a man. ...

As I’ve written before, once upon a time podium faculty taught legal writing.  But in the desire to teach doctrinal courses the academy has given some of the most important work in all of legal academia to people who are treated as second-class citizens, relegating them to publish their work in “other” journals, to predominantly discuss their arts at “other” conferences, etc. ...

And, while the academy navel-gazes about class, gender, and racial diversity in academia, it hasn’t, in my opinion, addressed the institutional effects that permeate the various classist structures of legal academics.   It isn’t about just paying legal writing professors what they are worth, it’s about respect and dignity. 

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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