Three Generations and Two Tiers: How Participation in Law School Clinics and the Demand for "Practice-Ready" Graduates Will Impact the Faculty Status of Clinical Law Professors


Since the emergence of clinical legal education in its modern form, a majority of law school faculties have created and maintained a faculty structure in which clinicians do not enjoy the same "employment security, status, monetary and non-monetary benefits, rights of citizenship, academic freedom and autonomy" currently enjoyed by non-clinical faculty. This Essay posits that, in the ensuing decades, we are likely to see this two-tiered system replaced by a different system that extends the same rights, privileges, and compensation to both clinical and non-clinical faculty.

With respect to the diminished faculty status of law school clinicians, the winds of change blow from two directions. The first of these winds relates to the fact that law school faculties find themselves in the midst of a generational changing of the guard. The modern day American legal profession is primarily dominated by three distinct generations. At the oldest end of the generational spectrum are the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964). They are followed by Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) and the Millennials (born between 1981 and 2004). This Essay argues that, as Gen X‘ers and Millennials take over the teaching positions once held by Baby Boomers, such changing of the guard will have a positive and lasting effect on the status of clinical faculty.

The discussion that follows proceeds in four parts. Part I provides an overview of the evolution of clinical legal education, from its inception to its current role in the modern legal curriculum. A specific focus is paid to the emergence of in-house law school clinics, as well as the corresponding treatment of clinical faculty at American law schools from the time Baby Boomers first began their legal education in the 1960s to the present day. Part II explores the various factors that led to the creation of the two-tiered system of faculty status that exists at many American law schools today. Part III explores the value the Baby Boomers‘ successors, Generation X‘ers and Millennials, assign to the importance of clinical legal education. Part IV explores the second of the two winds affecting clinical legal education: market-based criticism that the law school curriculum, as currently constructed, does little to ensure that, upon graduation, law students are, in fact, "practice-ready." Commentators, in calling for curricular reforms designed to accomplish that end, have stressed the importance of clinical legal education. This Essay argues the growing importance of clinical education increases the likelihood clinical law professors will achieve equality with non-clinical faculty.


legal education reform; law school clinics; clinical legal education; legal clinics; legal clinic faculty; clinical law professors



Todd A. Berger (Syracuse University College of Law)



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