Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Academia, in the small, relatively isolated township of Legalese, resided a school.  This school taught people how to practice being lawyers, the instruction of which involved the reading of cases and verbal abuse by a trained instructor who had once been abused himself (by an illegitimate stepson of Socrates).

These instructors prided themselves on their ability to engage in grandiose intellectual ideas known as “high theory.”  They would put these ideas to paper and publish them in large volumes called law reviews, which very few people read–even the law review editors—but which killed massive amounts of trees.  Mostly the articles were read by their friends, namely people who wrote in the same field.  For reasons unknown to this author, this was not at all similar to a Ponzi scheme.

In any event, many of these instructors prided themselves on never practicing law, which made the lawyers less inclined to read anything the instructors put to paper in the same way as one looks with jaundiced eye at a recipe from someone who has never cooked.

In these ancient times, the three best of the best instructors, Sir Harford, Sir Stenfjord, and Sir Yeal, all taught their students the fine art of legal writing.  They would complete this task in the midst of their traditional law school courses, such as contracts or torts.  Alas, teaching legal writing was very hard, because it required instructors to talk to students outside of class, to grade more than a single final exam, and to actually know about the practice of law.

“This is too hard!”  Cried Sir Harford, “I have no time to publish my latest piece which all my friends in my very small circle of expertise will read!”

“This is too hard!”  Cried Sir Stenfjord, “The students keep asking me about citation methods.  They don’t write well.  It is too hard to fix!   I’m untenured and need to kill a forest!”

“This is too hard!”  Cried Sir Yeal, “I don’t want to do this.  I am tenured!  I want to teach my seminar on the subject matter of my next article!”

“I can teach them writing,” cried a Stentorian voice.

“Who said that?” said the Ivy-clad Sirs.

“I did!” replied the voice.  “I am Leia Galreiting.  I would love to teach students the great art of writing for courts and law firms!”

“Great!” the Sirs said.  “We will pay you a pittance of what we earn.  Also, because you are only teaching them ‘skills,’ we will try to make sure you are reminded you aren’t as great as we are.  No tenure, low salary, more students, and we won’t recognize you in the hallways.  We will also complain that you are doing a terrible job, although none of us want it.”

“That’s fine.” Said Leia Galreiting.  “It beats killing myself at a firm.  I want to live.”

Things went well for a while.  Leia taught the students how to write, and the Sirs taught the students how to think like lawyers, as they would say.  The Sirs kept to their word:  They would not notice her in hallways, wouldn’t let her vote in matters of the school, and made her feel inferior.  It wasn’t just that her office was far away from theirs, it was that it was often located next to the offices of staff, and Leia knew how the Sirs felt about staff, as evidenced by the large “beware of Staff infection” signs posted everywhere along with “faculty—turn this way to avoid the common folk” signs.

One day, the fine Sirs realized that they could improve their lot compared to other schools by including Leia in their headcount.   The great judge of schools, Yooesnews, liked it when faculty/student ratios were higher.  The Sirs graciously decided to allow Leia to be a contractual employee, once they remembered her name was Leia.

“Okay, you still aren’t one of us, but you can stay.  Sign this three year contract.” The Sirs said.

“You have a few typos.  Let me fix those first.  Okay.  Signed.” Said Leia, as she signed the document.  She turned back to her computer.

“What are you writing?” asked the Sirs.  “Surely that isn’t scholarship.”

“It is!” said Leia.  “I am presenting an article on teaching legal writing at the Association of Law Schools and 8th Grade Popularity Contest!”

“That’s not scholarship!” The Sirs proclaimed.  “It’s not high theory.   Everything about you says low.  Everything about us says we are high!”

Leia and her peers at other schools started to gain respect, increasingly so after a wizard named Laissez Faire put a spell on the land that killed lots and lots of jobs for lawyers.  As a result, King ABA began to question what the Sirs were doing.  “It has nothing to do with what lawyers really do!” King ABA said.

In reality the distinction between practice and theory is just silly.  Theory helps define better practice, and without practice theoretical underpinnings lack foundation.  The near-sighted practitioner and the far-sighted professor both run into the same walls for lack of vision.  But King ABA was very near-sighted, and the Sirs were very far-sighted.   The King demanded that students take more and more classes from people like Leia, classes the Sirs could not teach, even if they wanted.

However, the Sirs continued to treat Leia and her lot like second class citizens.  No matter what Leia wrote, it was never good enough to be considered scholarship.  The Sirs still didn’t recognize her in the hallway, still didn’t let her have any serious voting rights, and blamed her for every writing mistake.  But no Sir ever offered or wanted to teach Leia’s class.  It was too hard.

Generations later, some of us Sirs wish these stupid hierarchies never existed, and that all the Sirs and Leias could all live happily ever after as coequals.

NOTE FROM AUTHOR:   Any hint of annoyance at other hierarchies, such as gender barriers in legal education, is purely intentional.