Monday, December 7, 2020

It's a good thing the President of the AALS doesn't really matter to legal education...

...or there would be reasons to be quite worried about some parts of the recent missives from current AALS President Darby Dickerson (who is also Dean at UIC John Marshall Law School).  In the past, I have commended to the attention of readers some of Dean Dickerson's advice, so these recent statements come as a surprise to me.

To be clear:  there is much that Dean Dickerson says that is sensible and decent, and it's shocking to learn, e.g., that some doctrinal faculty do not treat their clinical or legal writing colleagues with appropriate respect and courtesy.   So, too, greater job security is a good in any line of work, academic or otherwise; no doubt so many academic or "doctrinal" faculty enjoy it only because the ABA mandates it.

But to refer to the existence of different jobs and positions, with different qualifications and expectations, as a "caste" system is just a rhetorical trick, harnessing the pejorative connotation of "caste" to raise doubts about a system of differing qualifications, expectations and authority.  Is it a "caste" system that in a hospital the doctors have different professional status, differential educationl and professional attainments, and different responsibilities and authority than nurse's aides?  Is it a "caste" system that PhDs in chemistry with tenure have different responsibilities and authority than the post-docs or research technicians in their labs?  Unlike real caste systems, a chnage in status is possible with a change in education, experience, and accomplishments.  The only real question is whether the differing qualifications, responsibilities and authority are justified, not whether they are a "caste."  But there is not even the pretense of a substantive analysis and critique of the division of labor and responsibility in Dean Dickerson's letter.  (Surely it is not mysterious, for example, why clinical and doctrinal faculty should have more responsibility and control over the school and its curriculum than, e.g., adjuncts or staff who are not lawyers?)

(I'll just note, as an aside, that the idea at the conclusion of Dean Dickerson's letter that law schools should be "transformed" into "anti-racist institutions" [as distinct from being non-racist ones that comply with equal opportunity laws] would portend a massive violation of the academic freedom of all faculty (for example)-- just as transforming law schools into "anti-communist" or "anti-capitalist" institutions would.   Law schools exist to train lawyers and produce knowledge about the law, not to promote extraneous social goals, even meritorious ones.)

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