BECOMING GENTLEMEN by Lani Guinier

BECOMING GENTLEMEN

Women, Law School and Institutional Change
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A look at how women are seduced and betrayed by our top law schools, by Clinton's controversial ex-nominee for assistant attorney general for civil rights Guinier (Law/Univ. of Penn.; The Tyranny of the Majority, 1994) and two colleagues. Although women are matriculating at America's law schools in record numbers, they consistently underperform compared to their male classmates. According to this study of 981 male and female students at the elite University of Pennsylvania Law School between 1987 and 1992, female law students receive lower grades, achieve lower class ranks, earn fewer awards and honors, and take less prestigious jobs than males. Even more troubling, the women law students interviewed by Guinier, et al., report that the culture of law school, which ``emphasizes aggressiveness, legitimizes emotional detachment and demands speed,'' robs them of their ``voices,'' alienates and demoralizes them, and even endangers their mental health (as one woman put it: ``Guys think law school is hard, and we just think we're stupid''). The authors come down particularly hard on the so-called ``Socratic method'' used in most law school teaching; the ``ritualized combat'' of the technique silences many women whose learning styles are better suited to the cooperative environment of smaller-scale seminars, and teaches little more than ``how to ask rude questions.'' This brief study is hugely persuasive but sometimes a bit vague: Exactly what are the career options available to J.D.s who refuse to ask ``rude questions''? Exactly what are the long-term effects of three miserable postgraduate years? Occasionally, the focus is too narrow; for example, is it possible that women law graduates fail to take public-interest jobs not because they've been coopted by macho, corporate-friendly law-school culture, but because they need lucrative jobs to pay off staggering law-school debts? Despite the sometimes conclusory nature of the analysis, an important and startling work by a provocative national figure. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 7th, 1997
ISBN: 0-8070-4404-0
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1997




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