Lessons and Challenges of Becoming Gentlemen


There are many lessons to be learned from the experience of those women law students for whom law school is a hostile learning environment. These are lessons that men as well as women, law students as well as lawyers, might take from the study Michelle Fine, Jane Balin, and I conducted at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Within these lessons is alsoa challenge to all consumers and producers of legal education: can we usethe negative experience of some women in law school to initiate fundamen-tal changes in legal education generally?

Our study of the academic performance and quality of life for womenat this one law school reveals many institutional failings that actually affecteveryone. Many of the problems we identify reflect the shortcomings of a one-size-fits-all approach to pedagogy and the correspondingly single-minded focus on adversariness as the dominant professional norm of good lawyering. These problems, which suggest troubling deficiencies in the ed-ucational enterprise, became visible as they converged around a particulargroup. The experience of women in law school, in other words, is not necessarily about gender per se. Not all women experience law school as a hostile learning environment. Moreover, some men do. Gender may mask bureaucratic choices and organizational inertia that adversely affect the learning experience of many consumers of legal education. At stake is not only how we educate women. We need to rethink how we admit, train, and acculturate all lawyers to the demands of a changing profession.

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