A Tale of Two Disciplines: Legal Writing—A World of Haves and Have-Nots

In his article, A Curmudgeon’s View of the Multi-Generational Teaching of Legal Writing, Professor Jan Levine, bemoans the current state of Legal Writing as an academic discipline. He decries the short memory of its members and organizations and a perceived lack of depth of research in its scholarship. He alleges a tendency of the community to avoid criticism of legal writing colleagues with respect to both pedagogy and scholarship. Further, Professor Levine complains that those writing faculty who achieve tenure no longer have a primary identity as legal writing faculty, something he finds problematic. His overall argument is that generational differences are the root cause of many of these problems and that the younger generations’ ways of approaching matters are necessarily inferior. However, this argument ignores that lower-ranking faculty status and institutional barriers, not generation, are at the heart of these concerns. Professor Levine and I teach at the same school; he directs the legal writing program and supervised me as the director until just this year, when I stepped away from teaching legal writing due to administrative duties. The fact that I feel comfortable enough to write this response to his well-received article is proof that status matters. An untenured professor, even one with 405(c) status, could not do this with confidence and security. I am conscious that Professor Levine is a major reason legal writing faculty (including me) have tenure and status at Duquesne Kline Law and elsewhere. He deserves many accolades for his previous work, but Curmudgeon’s View misses the mark. Different generations (and different individuals) bring a variety of strengths to the legal writing field, to both teaching and scholarship, and that diversity is a strength, not a weakness. To the extent Professor Levine’s observations critical of the legal writing field are accurate, it is a function of the lack of status and job security available for the majority of legal writing faculty rather than “naivete,” “incomplete efforts,” or “lack of research.” In this essay I explore several concepts—high turnover, burnout, significant gender disparity, and uneven mentoring of faculty—that contribute to the issues Professor Levine mentions.

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