Publication Date

Spring 1998



Document Type



This article explores the relationship of writing and speech in the legal academy through the lens of an ancient, embedded hierarchy that favors speech over writing. The article borrows the philosophical notion of the "dangerous supplement" to describe the role of writing in this hierarchy and argues that law schools have long seen only one aspect of this role, viewing writing as a "dangerous" curricular supplement, but failing to see why it is necessary to the existence of the remainder of the curriculum. This article examines the lurking distrust that surrounds writing in the legal academy. Part I of this article traces the historical roots of the speech/writing hierarchy and its insinuation into the legal curriculum. Part II discusses how deans and faculty in United States law schools have responded to and reinforced this hierarchy in their treatment of legal writing programs. This Part then uses the notion of the "dangerous supplement" to critique the hierarchy upon which institutional decisions in this area have been based. Part III analyzes the effect of the speech/writing hierarchy on writing pedagogy, specifically addressing common criticisms of legal writing as students experience it in the legal academy. Part IV looks to the future, assessing the possibility and ramifications of breaking out of the hierarchy. Overall, by exposing the deception embedded in the hierarchy, this article attempts to explain why the legal academy needs the dangerous supplement of legal writing.

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