Interrogating Legal Pedagogy and Imagining a Better Way to Train Lawyers

February 18, 2022

Symposium Description

“The trouble with much law school teaching is that, confining its attention to a study of upper court opinions, it is hopelessly oversimplified.” Jerome Frank, Why Not a Clinical Lawyer School?, 81 U. Pa. L. Rev. 907, 913 (1933).

Judge Frank’s critique of legal education, written almost 90 years ago, was an early and influential installment in the debate within legal academia about whether law schools should focus on clinical or theoretical education—a debate that continues to this day. See, eg., Stephen Ellman, Isabelle R. Gunning, & Randy Hertz, Why Not a Clinical Lawyer-Journal?, 1 Clinical L. Rev. 1 (1994); Minna J. Kotkin, Clinical Legal Education and the Replication of Hierarchy, 26 Clinical L. Rev. 287 (2019). 

Beyond the clinical-doctrinal schism, numerous scholars have interrogated how the law is taught and learned from a multitude of perspectives. In one provocative piece, Professor Duncan Kennedy observed that legal education is inherently political, ideological, and intended to serve the interests of the wealthy. See Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy, 31 J. Legal Educ. 591 (1982). Scholars have persuasively written about the ways in which legal pedagogy erases the perspectives of women and people of color, even making their injuries non-cognizable in legal discourse. See Lani Guinier, Michelle Fine, Jane Balin, Ann Bartow, & Deborah Lee Stachel, Becoming Gentlemen: Women’s Experiences at One Ivy League Law School, 143 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1 (1994); Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Foreword: Toward a Race-Conscious Pedagogy in Legal Education, 11 Nat’l Black L.J. 1 (1988); Jonathan Feingold & Doug Souza, Measuring the Racial Unevenness of Law School, 15 Berkeley J. Afr.-Am. L. & Pol’y 71 (2013). More recently, legal scholars have explored how pedagogy in a whole array of curricular areas can perpetuate societal injustice. See, e.g., Alice Ristroph, The Curriculum of the Carceral State, 120 Colum. L. Rev., 1631 (2020), Ellen Dannin, Teaching Labor Law Within A Socioeconomic Framework, 41 San Diego L. Rev. 93 (2004), Dorothy A. Brown, Split Personalities: Tax Law and Critical Race Theory, 19 W. New Eng. L. Rev. 89 (1997).

The Virginia Law Review (VLR) Online hopes to continue this tradition by hosting its annual Online Symposium, on February 18th, 2022, to discuss what works—and what doesn’t—with current legal pedagogy. The Symposium will explore whose interests legal pedagogy serves, whether legal pedagogy should involve more clinical or theoretical education, whether current legal pedagogy achieves the stated goals of law schools, the ways in which legal pedagogy exacerbates inequalities in the legal system, and the capacity for legal pedagogy to change. We envision submissions on a wide range of topics, including, but not limited to: curricular reform, the role of critical race theory and feminist theory in law schools, the intersection between legal pedagogy and social justice, the courts-focused nature of legal pedagogy, whether current legal pedagogy prepares students for practice (and whether this should be legal pedagogy’s primary or sole aim), etc. The specific themes of each panel will be determined based on the topics of accepted submissions.

Submission Instructions

Deadline: All pieces must be submitted by December 20, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. 

Instructions for PROFESSOR/PRACTITIONER Submissions: Submissions should be sent by e-mail to valawrev.online@gmail.com in Microsoft Word format. The subject line of the email should read “VLR Online Symposium Submission.” Submissions should be in Times 11 or a larger sized font, should utilize footnotes instead of endnotes, and should have numbered pages. Submissions should also include the author’s most recent CV. Submissions should not exceed 7,500 words.

Instructions for UVA LAW STUDENT submissions: Pieces must be emailed to vlronline_6bd2@sendtodropbox.com in .docx format. Submissions should not exceed 7,500 words. The document must abide by these guidelines:

  1. The document should include a cover page containing:
    • The title of the piece;
    • An abstract of 250 words or less; and
    • A word count for the piece, both with and without footnotes.
  2. The file must be the [Piece Title], and the subject line of the email must be “VLR Online 2022 Symposium Submission”.
  3. Any identifying information must be removed from the body of the document as well as the personal information embedded in the digital file by following the instructions below. This includes removing identifying information typically included at the beginning of a Note in a * footnote. Correctly following all instructions will maintain each author’s anonymity.
    • Word 2010, 2013, 2016: Go to File, select “Info”, click on Check for Issues”, click on “Inspect Document”. In the dialog box, click “Remove All” and close box. Save document.
    • Word for Mac 2016, 2018: Go to Tools, select “Protect Document” or select “Protect Document” button on Review tab. Save document.
  4. In addition to the document above, all submissions must include the following information in a separate document, which is to be attached to the same email in .pdf format. The PDF should be titled “[Piece Title].Confidential”. This separate document should be a single page and include:
    • Your name, phone number, e-mail address, and mailing address;
    • The title of your submission; and
    • A signed statement (an electronic signature will be accepted) that your piece was not heavily edited by anyone other than the author(s).

Any questions should be directed to the Online Development Editor, Elizabeth Adler (eca7ba@virginia.edu).