I’ve just returned from the Legal Writing Institute’s Biennial Conference held in Portland, Oregon. With hundreds of attendees presenting on a variety of topics in workshops, panel discussions, coffee sessions, and a plenary, I am more inspired than ever to incorporate new and innovative teaching ideas into my course, produce scholarship that contributes to our field, and continue to serve my law school as we navigate implementation of the ABA’s new standards. I want to thank all who contributed to the event for sharing their knowledge.
There was, however, one overriding issue which tempers this enthusiasm and inspiration: the continued battle legal writing faculty face in striving for equal status within their law schools. While it is true that many have made positive strides, the empirical and anecdotal information shared over the course of the conference shows that there is still far to go. The Legal Writing Institute (“LWI”) the Association of Legal Writing Directors (“ALWD”), and the Society of American Law Teachers (“SALT”) have formally adopted a policy statement on full citizenship for all faculty. Here is the text of the statement:
The Legal Writing Institute is committed to a policy of full citizenship for all law faculty. No justification exists for subordinating one group of law faculty to another based on the nature of the course, the subject matter, or the teaching method. All full-time law faculty should have the opportunity to achieve full citizenship at their institutions, including academic freedom, security of position, and governance rights. Those rights are necessary to ensure that law students and the legal profession benefit from the myriad perspectives and expertise that all faculty bring to the mission of legal education.
LWI launched a campaign for individual signatures which began at the conference and will continue.
A recent article also discusses the impact of the lack of full citizenship for a group of faculty who are largely female: Stars Upon Thars: Law Schools Use ABA Standard 405(c)’s Tenure Like Security of Position to Discriminate Against Female Legal Writing Faculty, 34 Law. & Ineq. 137 (2016) by Melissa Weresh from Drake Law School. This article addresses the potential for exploitation of law faculty members who hold ABA Accreditation Standard 405(c) status (“reasonably similar to tenure”) and the likelihood that such exploitation will have a disparate and discriminatory impact on a predominantly female cohort of law faculty.
After attending multiple sessions which discussed the push for full citizenship, as well as the possible discriminatory impact of the lack of this citizenship, I’m left wondering: what message are we sending to female law students about the role of women in law school and the practice of law?
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