Thursday, September 16, 2021
Alexa Chew (North Carolina; Google Scholar) & Rachel Gurvich (North Carolina), Saying the Quiet Parts Out Loud: Teaching Students How Law School Works:
Like the law we teach our students, legal education itself isn’t neutral. It is the product of both structural forces and individual decisions. Hierarchy and structural inequality permeate our society, so of course they permeate the institutions within our society, including law schools. But law schools are not only passive recipients of these permeating atoms of injustice. They have some agency in determining which inequities to nurture (or not) in the learning environment. As it stands, though, the environment that students learn the law in can be an incubator of inequality.
Students can feel these inequities affecting their legal education, even when they can’t yet see them. These inequities had gradually become visible to us, during our time in legal academia. And we wanted our first-year students to be able to see them as well—to know what to call them, where they are reinforced, and how they affect the way law students learn to be lawyers. We hoped to foster understanding about the experiences and challenges different students have while attending the same institution and to practice talking explicitly about how different the law school environment can be for different people within it. Our students wanted to understand why individual professors, including us, couldn’t fix the problems they called attention to. Ultimately, we wanted students to learn at least some invisible rules of “how law school works” in their first year so that they could better navigate the system and more effectively advocate for themselves and for change while they were still in school.
This essay describes the asynchronous unit we created in spring 2021 called "How Law School Works" and reflects on the experience.