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This paper is an invitation to those in the legal academy who self-identify as egalitarian, as feminist, or as otherwise committed to equality in the law and the legal profession. The essay asks feminists and egalitarians to notice and resist the institutionalized and illegitimate status hierarchy operating in American law schools. Like any status hierarchy, its boundaries are well defined and well enforced. Additionally, and perhaps not surprising to feminists, this hierarchy is gendered, with the lowest rank overwhelmingly composed of women and the highest rank overwhelmingly composed of men. The players in this status hierarchy are the faculties and administrations of American law schools. At the top are the tenured "doctrinal" professors, roughly 70 percent of whom are male; at the bottom are legal writing professors, roughly 70 percent of whom are female.

This institutionalized status system is based on elitism and gender discrimination. It reflects a rigid and empty adherence to a set of artificial and contrived rules of prestige and rank that are unjustifiable and enforced by power and dominance rather than reason. Even more troubling is the way that the hierarchy is gender segregated, with women at the bottom and men at the top. Anytime a substantial cluster of women hold low-pay, low-status jobs, feminist and humanist alarms should ring. They should be ringing now.

In sum, this essay asks feminist and egalitarian law professors and deans to be honest and to look carefully at the situations in their own law schools and at their participation (active or passive) in the status hierarchy that keeps a majority of women lawyers in the law school in a subordinate position. It urges law professors who write about the damage of hierarchy and discrimination in other contexts to look, to notice and to fight the inequality in their own backyards.

Publication Citation

73 UMKC. L. Rev. 467 (2005).