Hierarchy? What Hierarchy? Why Legal Education Is the Most Egalitarian Form of Higher Education
Professor John Hasnas, J.D., PhD., LLM., Professor of Ethics, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University; Professor of Law (by courtesy), Georgetown Law Center; and Freedman Law and Humanities Fellow, 1989-91.
People become attorneys for a wide variety of reasons. But only a subset of attorneys become law professors. Most of those that do have a desire to not merely apply the law, but also to pursue justice. But the pursuit of justice usually means opposing oppression, and oppression usually involves a hierarchical relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed. Therefore, those who select into a career as a law professor are frequently predisposed to find hierarchies to smash. And this can cause them to see hierarchies wherever they look. If to a person with a hammer, everything looks like a nail, then to a person out to oppose injustice, everything may look hierarchical. Thus, the tendency to magnify the hierarchical aspect of common practices or to see hierarchies where they do not exist may be an occupational hazard for law professors.
Something like this may account for law professors’ continual criticism of legal education as hierarchical in nature. Perhaps when looked at from the inside, the legal academy may appear to contain mountains of hierarchy. But from an external perspective, those mountains hardly register as molehills. As one who spent his career alternating between the legal academy and the traditional academy and who currently has one foot in each camp, I am able to understand the internal perspective while nevertheless taking the external one. And from the external perspective, it is clear that legal education is, by far, the most egalitarian form of higher education.