As important as it is to never allow the great to be the enemy of the good, sometimes good just ain’t good enough. While women have been making strides in legal settings, their gaits have been far from un-impeded. While the quantity of female law school Deans has increased over the years, there is still a problem of quality. Not in the applicants, but in the tier of authority they’ve been allowed to fill.
There are more female law deans and faculty than ever before in the U.S. But many of those roles still tend to be “lower status” positions compared to the ones held by men, according to a new study.
The paper, titled “Women in U.S. Law Schools, 1948-2021,” was written by Elizabeth D. Katz and Kyle Rozema, both associate professors of law at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, along with Sarath Sanga, a professor of law at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. Published Aug. 16, the study explores the progress of women’s representation and achievement in law schools.
“The dataset is an unbalanced panel” consisting of 233 law schools over the years 1948-2021, covering 2.7 million 1L students over 11,874 law school years, with an average of 51 years of data per school, according to the authors.
“Pooling across all years and law schools,” women comprised 31% of students, 23% of faculty and 12% of deans, according to the study.
Nobody likes learning the Rule Against Perpetuities. Nobody…right? If you do seek help. Bracketing those weirdos aside, getting through law school is hard enough without stacking on micro (and macro) aggressions while you’re dragging your books around.
Television icon Judge Judy Sheindlin recently spoke about this topic while addressing New York Law School graduates at their May 26 commencement ceremony. Sheindlin was the only woman in her graduating class at NYLS, where she graduated in 1965.
Sheindlin recounted that, when she first arrived at NYLS—after transferring from Washington College of Law, now known as American University Washington College of Law, where she was first in her class—she was greeted by a professor, who asked her why she “was taking the seat of a man who would actually be using his law degree.”
Given that Judge Judy is one of the most well known judges besides Kavanaugh when he’s trying to eat a nice steak dinner, I’d think she put her law degree to quite good use. Better than Rudy Giuliani at least. And while that is a low bar, it is one that some folks still find difficulty clearing. Let me stop sneak dissing — she’s doing better than Andrew Cuomo.
The silver lining is that the women have still been making strides in legal settings.
“Among the most fundamental changes in American law schools over the past century has been the gradual but persistent increase in women’s representation,” the authors wrote.
At the beginning of the 20th century, women made up 5% of law students and by the end of the century, women constituted 48% of all law students and by 2021, 55% of law students were women, according to the study.
In 2016, the number of women enrolled in law degree programs moved past 50% for the first time and the trend has continued to do so every year since, with women making up 54.1% of all students attending American Bar Association-approved law schools in 2020, according to Enjuris.
5 percent to the most is a win in most folk’s bluebooks! Looks like the future is on track for being female after all. For that future to come into fruition and bring more female law students, faculty and deans — higher status ones too mind you — we need more bright Bramantip minded students to accumulate those thoughts and degrees. Hopefully with some financial assistance thrown in for good measure, too.
As you search for the next institution lucky enough to have you, I suggest a few starting places.
Places to be for students:
The University of California, Davis School of Law; University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law; The University of California, Berkeley, School of Law; New York University School of Law; and the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.
University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law; Washington University in St. Louis School of Law; the University of California, Davis School of Law; Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law; and the University of Wisconsin Law School.
And for Deans:
The University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law; Duke University School of Law; Boston University School of Law; Stanford Law School; and the University of Colorado Law School.
And, because intersectionality is a thing, Black women overcoming the long history of patriarchy in addition to getting their JD may be interested in cross referencing these lists with LawyersofColor’s top picks.
‘Pink Ghettos’: New Study Find Female Law Deans, Faculty Often Relegated to ‘Lower Status Positions’ [Law.com]
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at email@example.com and by tweet at @WritesForRent.
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