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Law faculty hiring stacked against some applicants

The column “Wanted: Women law school professors” in April called for “greater diversity of all types in law school faculties.” I strongly concur that the law school faculty hiring process needs to be more open and objective. The greatest problem is that it is a closed process where publicly announced, consistent and objective criteria are almost entirely absent. While this gives existing faculty the freedom to insist on high standards of academic excellence, it also gives faculties the ability to discriminate in hiring based on usually unarticulated prejudices.

An attorney hoping to join a law school usually assumes that the demonstrated ability to successfully teach complex subjects to adults would be a mandatory skill, but it is clear that such explanatory ability is almost irrelevant to most faculty hiring committees. Their goal instead is to garner honor among their peers by prolific publication of widely cited academic discourses and collection of other recognitions that are the coin of the realm in that fraternity, such as ability to raise money from government and foundation grants.

Preparing their students to effectively practice law is, for many professors, an accidental side effect of the primary academic process of being honored for their intelligence.

The same peer pressure largely ensures that professors would not discriminate against applicants who are female or belong to minority races. However, that academic peer pressure is itself prejudiced against applicants with extensive nonacademic work experience, with conservative political views or work histories that are associated with such views, and against applicants whose religious views are more traditional.

I base this on my own participation in the annual AALS law school interview process and statements made to me by faculty members of various schools and the people who tried to get interviews with them. There are female and minority attorneys in each of these disfavored categories, but these prejudices cut them out of consideration at the outset.

Raymond Takashi Swenson
Idaho Falls, Idaho

No diversity on the bench

I agree with Mona Hathout who wrote “Wanted: Women Law School Professors” (April Bar Journal). However, even more disturbing than the significant gaps which currently exist at the legal corporate and partnership levels with respect to women and ethnic minorities, and the lack of diversity in law school faculties, is the continued lack of diversity on the bench. Apparently, there is still much to be accomplished.

On another note, I read with interest “Honoring a Landmark Decision” with respect to Brown v. Board of Education. I have, in my chambers, a 3 by 5 card, with the following, typewritten thereon:

“Does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other ‘tangible’ factors may be equal, deprive the chuldren [sic] of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does . . . We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

It is signed by Earl Warren. On the reverse, a certification of authenticity that this was the card Chief Justice Warren read from when he announced the landmark decision. I am proud to be its custodian, and at the same time, disheartened that not more has been accomplished in the last 50 years.

Adoralida (Dora) Padilla
Administrative Law Judge
San Jose

Thanks for LAP

It was great to see a positive story on the success of the Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) in April. I would like to emphasize to my colleagues who suffer from a mental illness to utilize their services as soon as possible and not wait until they find themselves on the receiving end of a disciplinary action before getting help.

In 1995, when my depression was at its most paralyzing and numbing darkest, I had nowhere to turn in the State Bar for help. I want to extend my heartiest gratitude and support to Janis Thibault for the fine job she is doing as director of LAP.

Allen P. Wilkinson

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