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Possible Détente in Squabble Between Yale Law School and Legal Writing Instructors?

Might the two-week-long stare-down of sorts between an associate dean of admissions at Yale Law School and legal writing instructors worldwide be entering a period of détente? The Legal Writing Prof Blog notes that associate dean Asha Rangappa at YLS has now removed a 2011 blog post from Yale's 203 Admissions Blog in which she advised prospective transfer students not to use a recommendation from a legal writing instructor. Rather, she said, Yale preferred to receive recommendations from "core subject area professors, who can speak to your ability to keep up with the subject material, contribute to class discussion, and think through difficult concepts. ..."

As word of this blog post spread throughout the legal research and writing community, many LRW feathers became ruffled. The Legal Writing Prof Blog noted on August 15, 2012, that the legal writing professors' listserv was quickly "abuzz," as LRW instructors found the post

objectionable on many levels. One called it the "smoking gun" that documents an attitude we all knew was out there. Another said it shows how unknowledgeable some in legal academia are about what we actually do. Keeping up with subject material and thinking through difficult concepts are key abilities students need to succeed in our courses!

Within a few days, legal writing professors Amy Vorenberg, Kris Tiscione and Lisa McElroy shot a letter -- co-signed by nearly 450 supporters -- to the dean of Yale Law School and the Yale admissions committee. The letter expressed concern that the blog post in question sent "a message that legal research and writing ("LRW") courses are not rigorous, underestimates the ability of LRW faculty to comment on students' cognitive skills, harms students by discounting the valuable and thoughtful insight we have to offer about students seeking to transfer to Yale, and devalues LRW professors as a whole."

The letter further explained that "accurate, in‐depth legal analysis and reasoning are at the core of an LRW course" and argued that LRW was, in fact, a core subject area in modern legal education. Finally, the letter urged YLS to reconsider its practice of discounting recommendations from LRW faculty, and requested that YLS amend the blog post accordingly.

In a post Wednesday, the Legal Writing Prof Blog reported that Dean Rangappa has quickly responded to the letter from the unhappy LRW community. In the letter, Rangappa stated that she "did not intend for my post to cast doubt on the important role and valuable contributions of legal writing professors in legal education." She explained, however, that the purpose of her blog post had been to "give practical advice to potential applicants" on "the kind of application that is typically successful in gaining admission to Yale Law School."

Rangappa noted that the concerns raised by in the letter from the LRW community highlighted

significant issues that are quite beyond the scope of my post. In trying to address these issues, I have been unable to find a way to accurately revise or supplement my original blog post without making it too complex to be of any practical use for a potential applicant.  In the interest of staying true to both the practical purpose of my advice and the unique nature of our admissions process - which I believe is fair and respectful to applicants and all those who speak on their behalf - I have chosen, after much deliberation, simply to remove the post from the blog. 

So the offending post has come down, but it certainly does not appear from the dean's letter that YLS is reconsidering its practice of "discounting recommendations from LRW faculty."

Posted by Bruce Carton on August 30, 2012 at 04:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (39)


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