Teaching Legal Writing

This post comes courtesy of the blog Dorf on Law in an entry entitled “Guest Post on Teaching Legal Writing by Professor Lisa McElroy“. The post builds on an article written for the New York Times on improving law schools. Here’s a small taste:

And all of these statistics are not speculation.  Every year, the Legal Writing Institute, a professional organization with over 2000 members (disclosure:  I am member of the LWI Board of Directors) and the Association of Legal Writing Directors (disclosure: I am a past member of this organization’s Board, as well) conducts a survey of legal writing programs across the country, a survey with a remarkably high response rate (this year’s was 94.5%, with programs from 188 law schools responding). 
But here’s the rub:  As that same survey describes, legal writing professors are typically paid far less than their podium colleagues.  The average legal writing professor today earns $73,773, regardless of number of years teaching;  a third of legal writing directors earn (on average) $26,000 less than entry-level podium faculty members at their schools.  An average director has been teaching in law schools for 15 years.
And that’s not all.  Legal writing professors may occupy less desirable office space, they may be prohibited from participating in faculty governance (even on matters, like curriculum, that directly concern them), and they often carry titles like “instructor” or “lecturer” rather than “professor.”  As reflected by the fact that only 18 law schools primarily employ legal writing faculty as tenured or tenure-track professors , very few have the job security that their podium colleagues enjoy.  Again, as Garner notes, the job of teaching legal writing is the least respected in most law schools.  And what Garner does not say explicitly?  That lack of respect often trickles down:  from administration, to podium faculty, to students (one of my darkest days of teaching was when I conferenced with a first-year law student, encouraging her to put more effort into legal writing; she replied that she didn’t want to take time away from her “real courses.”)
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