Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

A Polemic Against the System

223 pages

March, 2007

ISBN: 9780814748053



Also available in



Part of the Critical America series


Duncan Kennedy is Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence at Harvard University School of Law. He is the author of a number of books and articles, including A Critique of Adjudication [fin de siècle] and Sexy Dressing, Etc.: Essays on the Power and Politics of Cultural Identity.

All books by Duncan Kennedy

In 1983 Harvard law professor Duncan Kennedy self-published a biting critique of the law school system called Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy. This controversial booklet was reviewed in several major law journals—unprecedented for a self-published work—and influenced a generation of law students and teachers.

In this well-known critique, Duncan Kennedy argues that legal education reinforces class, race, and gender inequality in our society. However, Kennedy proposes a radical egalitarian alternative vision of what legal education should become, and a strategy, starting from the anarchist idea of workplace organizing, for struggle in that direction. Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy is comprehensive, covering everything about law school from the first day to moot court to job placement to life after law school. Kennedy's book remains one of the most cited works on American legal education.

The visually striking original text is reprinted here, making it available to a new generation. The text is buttressed by commentaries by five prominent legal scholars who consider its meaning for today, as well as by an introduction and afterword by the author that describes the context in which Kennedy wrote the book, including a brief history of critical legal studies.


  • “Duncan Kennedy's critique of legal education now gets the wide distribution it deserves. Kennedy's insightful skewering of legal education, supplemented by his own reflections on the work and views of other legal educators, will provide prospective law students with a flavor of what they are in for — and will remind lawyers of what they went through. Kennedy's message is as important today as it was two decades ago when he first penned this work.”

    —Mark Tushnet, Georgetown University

  • “Duncan Kennedy’s little red book has become a classic. But now with its republication twenty years later, Kennedy's ‘polemic against the system’takes us beyond its origins as a field guide to legal education. Amplified by the voices of other distinguished scholars, this stunning collection of essays forces us to consider the ways in which hierarchies and their resulting social alienation disfigure contemporary society, not just our law schools.”

    —Lani Guinier, Harvard University

  • “Kennedy’s book remains one of the defining blows of critical legal studies and an enduring challenge to the entire structure of legal education. It remains as vital, incisive and daring as when it first appeared.”

    —Scott Turow, author of One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School.

  • “An important founding text in the history of critical approaches to law taken by scholars located in law schools.”

    The Law and Politics Book Review