Is trouble brewing in the educational structures of American law? Perhaps like so many aspects of our culture today, money takes precedence over prudence?

Distracted by financial exigencies generated by faulty assumptions, do we focus on enrollment, rankings, fundraising, building, branding—and thereby lay waste our powers? Examining the habits of mind that undergird a liberal arts training: responsibility, creativity, openness, curiosity; I wonder if the “best practices” of our institutions are modeling the behavior we seek to instill in our students.

Case in point: Access. Of all career paths, certainly the law should be our most democratic profession: a nexus of our shining city. Access to practice in our modern courts lies at the very heart of our pursuit of happiness. Diversity should reign in modern American courts; yet the very structures seeking to protect civil liberties are trending towards elitistism—by narrowly defining talent and limiting choices by indenturing practitioners.

Has an addiction to the prestige of academic structures and the majesty of legal systems binded justice? Muted the call to equanimity? Transmuted the scales into an impenetrable hide that terrorizes rather than protects; demonizes rather than tranquilizes; isolates instead of bonding the welfare of our fellow citizens?

Justice should be merciful, kind of flexible. Reset the bar. See a glorious landscape in faces of the uncouth. Do not eviscerate the promise of our better future to safeguard mind-forged manacles. Now is the time to revolutionize the educational structures of American law: to sow new seeds in a garden that envisions the law not as a codex; but an index of the shifting values and dreams of a people who have lived too long in the shadows. Then, future generations will review our choices, and give thanks for the blessings of a more perfect union.

by Walt Turner

Walt Turner, the Director of the Writing Program at Bethany College, was born and raised in coastal Alabama. He teaches courses in composition, professional writing, and world literature. While he has published articles and reviews on subjects from Shakespeare to Queer Theory to Popular Culture, his current research interests focus on writing program administration and writing pedagogy.