Friday, May 5, 2023
Dividing Law School Faculties Into Academic Departments: A Potential Solution To The Gendered Doctrinal/Skills Hierarchy In Legal Education
Larry Cunningham (Dean, Charleston; Google Scholar), Dividing Law School Faculties into Academic Departments: A Potential Solution to the Gendered Doctrinal/Skills Hierarchy in Legal Education, 67 Vill. L. Rev. 679 (2022):
Most law school faculties in the United States are organized in internal hierarchies. At a given school, those professors who teach doctrinal subjects have the most power and benefits, while those who teach skills courses, such as legal writing and clinics, have the least. At many schools, this hierarchy has a gendered dynamic. Tenured doctrinal faculty are more likely to be male, while legal writing and clinical professors are more heavily female. This illegitimate status hierarchy 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 organize themselves in this way in recognition that teaching and scholarship are often specialized. The teaching and research in the Physics Department are different from that in the Philosophy Department. Departmentalization allows for the development of specialized teaching and scholarship standards while treating those with teaching roles as equals, regardless of subject matter.
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 a Department of Academic Support and a department devoted 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 for the curriculum, admissions, budget, and academic standards could be created, just as they exist now in colleges and schools within universities.