LL.M. Handbook

Additional Policies, Procedures & Resources

Using Gender Neutral Speech & Writing

The Law School encourages all students to use language, in both spoken and written communications, which includes both women and men in illustrations, examples, and hypothetical cases and which treats women and men with equal dignity and status. Today nearly half of all law students are women, and their numbers in the legal profession are growing rapidly. It is inappropriate to fall into a pattern in which only males appear in legal discussions, or in which women appear only in subordinate roles.

Here are some specific suggestions.

  1. Employ both female and male names in constructing legal arguments: For example, “Let’s assume that Lucy leases an apartment in her building to Tom.” Avoid usage such as “The typical lawyer is well-trained in his use of Shepards Citations.”
  2. Avoid stereotyping of roles or occupations as exclusively male or female. Instead: “The doctor administered sodium pentothal to her patient.” “B was elected president of the corporation and assumed her duties.”
  3. (Avoid use of “he” or “his” when a generic reference to a group of mixed gender is intended. Sometimes this can be accomplished by the phrase “he or she,” but a slight rewording often produces a smoother result. For example, the singular may be changed to the plural. “The average student turns in his or her assignments on time,” might be restated as “Most students turn in their assignments on time.”
  4. Treat men and women in a parallel manner. For example, “We reviewed the opinions of Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice O’Connor,” not “We reviewed the opinions of Chief Justice Rehnquist and Mrs. O’Connor.”
  5. Avoid use of “man” as a reference to people of both genders. For example, use “a reasonable person (or ‘a reasonable automobile driver’) under the circumstances,” not “a reasonable man.” Use “the chair of the committee must rule on the motion,” not “the chairman of the committee must rule.”

Improving our mode of expression in these ways is not automatic; it requires thought and concentration. Accuracy of expression and fairness to others should be characteristic of every lawyer and student.