New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

Document Type

Article

Comments

Inaugural volume of DUKE FORUM FOR LAW & SOCIAL CHANGE

Abstract

The undertraining of law students documented in a century’s worth of critiques of legal education, most recently by the Carnegie Foundation, has different and much more detrimental consequences for the post-J.D. careers of women and minority attorneys. However, studies of their early careers focus primarily on problems with law-firm mentoring and pay little, if any, attention to how the earlier training that these lawyers received (or failed to be given) in law school might have contributed to the later career obstacles they face. Conversely, studies of the ways that law schools undertrain law students pay little or no attention to how the deficiencies in the current model of law school education may disproportionately disadvantage women and minority law students later in their careers. This article examines an emerging literature, narratives of professionalization by women attorneys of color, and puts those narratives into the dual context of critiques of legal education (exemplified by the Carnegie Report) and critiques of law-firm practice (exemplified by the recent A.B.A. study “Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms”) in order to demonstrate how law schools contribute to the career difficulties faced by women and minority attorneys. Two types of undertraining occur: 1) formal curricular undertraining; 2) self-undertraining, caused by the disengagement produced by law school culture. Only by reforming the curriculum and culture of legal education can law schools live up to the democratic civic mission they espouse as proponents of equal opportunity.

Date of Authorship for this Version

May 2009