Leslie Culver joined the faculty at California Western School of Law in 2009 and is an experienced Legal Writing Professor. After years in law practice, Culver, an avid lover of all forms of writing since her youth found her calling in teaching law students to develop their legal writing and oral advocacy skills.
Culver researches and writes on conscious identity performance, a theory she developed by extending tenets of identity performance found in critical race theory and intersecting them with identity theories found in feminist communication, and social science disciplines. The central goal of Culver’s work is to bring aspects of critical race and communication theories into the law school environment to empower marginalized law students and attorneys through expansive identity performance tools. She has presented and published widely in this area and is passionate about empowering all her students to be culturally competent attorneys in this racial era.
Her most recent article, Conscious Identity Performance, to be published in Volume 55 of the San Diego Law Review (forthcoming 2018), expands on legal scholarship discussing identity performance as assimilation, covering, and passing. The notion is that “outsiders” (e.g. women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community) use these strategies to communicate with “insiders” (white heterosexual males) in ways designed to advance their status in the legal profession. By drawing on a theoretical framework that legal scholars have largely ignored—co-cultural theory, this article posits that this theory offers micro-level communication practices to assist outsiders in navigating their workplaces where insiders are predominant. This article is the first to apply co-cultural theory to legal scholarship. In earlier work, White Doors, Black Footsteps: Leveraging White Privilege to Benefit Law Students of Color, published in Volume 21 of the Journal of Gender, Race & Justice (2017), Culver calls for white privilege awareness among white law professors, intentional interethnic engagement, and a leveraging of that privilege to open professional doors for diverse students.
A current article situates legal writing pedagogy within the identity performance discourse. In this work, Culver posits that IRAC, a predominant paradigm for constructing legal analysis that often minimizes non-dominant conventions of good legal writing, is a trope for assimilation in the dominant white legal profession. When novice legal writers rely too heavily on IRAC, without a depth of understanding of these conventions, they may be seduced into “passing” as expert legal writers (a form of assimilation), and their critical analytical thinking is constrained. For law students to avoid unconscious assimilation of IRAC in form, they should learn the conventions of effective legal analysis, a process she terms “rhetorical profile.” With a rhetorical profile, law students gain the confidence to engage critically in legal analysis.
Professor Culver also serves as the director of A.I.M. for Law, a diversity pipeline program to assist collegiate students from underrepresented communities in successfully navigating the law school admission process, as well as gaining exposure to the rigorous requirements of law school.
Prior to joining the faculty at California Western, Culver was an Assistant Professor at Saint Louis University School of Law, her alma mater, where she taught Legal Research & Writing and Missouri Civil Procedure. Before teaching, she was an associate attorney at Husch & Eppenberger (now Husch Blackwell Sanders), one of the top and largest litigation firms in St. Louis. There, her practice focused on representing clients in the areas of medical malpractice, real estate, product liability, and general business litigation. She also enjoyed a substantial pro bono practice. During and immediately following law school, Culver clerked for then-Chief Judge Mary K. Hoff and the late Hon. Lawrence G. Crahan of the Missouri Court of Appeals. During law school, she also served on the executive board of the Saint Louis University Law Journal.
Professor Culver currently serves as the faculty advisor to both the Black Law Student Association and the Christian Legal Society and has served as a presenter and panel member at numerous academic conferences.