A fundamental obstacle to the success of legal education’s practice-readiness movement is the “bifurcated faculty.” Most law schools continue to operate a two-tiered system in which a group of elite-credentialed “doctrinal” faculty enjoy the generous compensation, security, and privileges associated with tenure, while an underclass of contract faculty teach work-intensive “skills” courses for lower pay and lesser status. This Essay analyzes the bifurcated faculty as a personnel practice, leveraging insights from management theory and employment discrimination scholarship to evaluate law schools as employers. It considers, first, the rise of new economy management practices that eschew static job classifications in favor of greater flexibility and integration and, second, the role of structural discrimination in stymying institutional efforts to eliminate workplace disparities tied to race, gender, and other protected characteristics. These bodies of research suggest that law schools aspiring to graduate practice-ready lawyers must not only integrate their curricula but also their faculty. Doing so means eliminating structural obstacles that isolate skills faculty from doctrinal faculty and dislodging embedded assumptions about their relative worth. Law schools that are seriously committed to graduating practice-ready lawyers should adopt a unified tenure system that hires, evaluates, and promotes all faculty based on the quality of their teaching and scholarship regardless of the subject of their courses or their area of research.
Rachel Arnow-Richman is a Visiting Professor, University of Florida Levin College of Law and Chauncey Wilson Memorial Research Professor, University of Denver Sturm College of Law.