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legal education, women, law schools


Michigan State University College of Law Symposium on Gender and the Legal Profession's Pipeline to Power (April 2012).


American legal education is in the grip of what some have called an “existential crisis.” The New York Times proclaims the death of the current system of legal education. This is attributed, in part, to the incentivizing of faculty to produce increasingly abstract scholarship and the costs this imposes on pedagogy and the mentoring of students. At the same time, despite women graduating from law schools in significant numbers since the 1980s, they continue to lag behind in the most prestigious positions in academia—tenured, full professorships: From academic year 1998-99 to academic year 2007-08, the percentage of women full professors grew from 20% to 29.3%. In this paper, I argue that these two phenomena—the incentivizing of scholarship at the expense of pedagogy and the slow progress of women to tenured, full professorships—are linked. The trend toward exclusively incentivizing scholarship imposes a disproportionate cost on women faculty who carry a much greater share of the caregiving and household responsibilities in their families. These women are also burdened by a disproportionate share of the student caregiving and institutional “housework” on committees inside law schools. In this paper, I argue that the external pressure on law schools created by the crisis actually presents an opportunity for women faculty. Part I describes the origins of the modern university and the unified model of teaching and scholarship. Part II evaluates the costs of this model to legal education as highlighted by the critics in the current crisis. Part III explores the heightened cost to women law faculty of this model adopted from the broader university. And Part IV offers suggestions for fundamentally restructuring the legal academy to provide a level playing field for women faculty and to facilitate their movement in equal numbers into tenured, full professorships.

Publication Citation

2012 Michigan State Law Review 1745 (2012).


Law and Gender | Legal Education