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Dissatisfaction permeates the public and professional discourse about lawyers and legal education. Diverse communities within and outside the profession are engaged in multiple conversations critiquing legal education and the profession itself. These conversations, though linked in subject matter and orientation, often proceed on separate tracks.

One set of conversations explicitly focuses on women and people of color, centering on their marginalization and underrepresentation in positions of power. Those concerned about race and gender exclusion often participate in separate communities of discourse. Indeed, the symposium that spawned this article framed the inquiry about higher education in terms of gender. This exclusive focus on gender created a recurring tension in writing this article that stems from the incompleteness of gender as a critical framework. This tension, resolved unsatisfactorily by focusing on gender but continually noting the relevance of the analysis to race and class, exemplifies the failure of existing inquiry to bridge the concerns of women and people of color about law, legal education, and the legal profession.

A second conversation questions the appropriateness of the values and goals of the prevailing legal educational mission. Some critics charge that traditional legal education trains lawyers to focus on the short-term, purely economic interests of those in power at the expense of thorough analysis and clients’ long term interests, and without regard to the impact on third parties and the community. Other critics focus on legal education’s preoccupation with rigorous, analytical reasoning and its failure to prepare future lawyers to meet the multifaceted, transactional nature of legal practice.

Yet another conversation critiques the prevailing model of legal professionalism perpetuated by the traditional law school curriculum. These critiques are both instrumental, in their questioning whether the model of the legal profession embraced by law schools adequately prepares lawyers and the legal profession to deal effectively with the challenges of the twenty-first century workplace, and normative, in their examining whether reigning models of legal professionalism are morally and ethically justifiable.

This article suggests that these conversations are related, indeed, interdependent. It builds from the critique of the gladiator model as a dominant, organizing framework of legal education and lawyers’ roles to find a synergy between the goals of those seeking to include women and those seeking to revitalize the profession to meet the demands of the twenty-first century. It explores the outlines of a problem-solving orientation to lawyering and legal education that has potential to address and create a dynamic between the concerns of women and the need to reclaim the soul of the legal profession. A move from gladiator to problem-solver may brighten both the future of the legal profession and the future of women and other underrepresented groups in the legal profession.


Law | Law and Gender | Legal Profession