For a long time, the percentage of women enrolled in accreditted law schools swayed either just under or exactly at 50%. Recent data collected and analyzed by the American Bar Assocation (ABA) shows that for the first time the number of women enrolled in accredited law schools has inched past 50%.
The A.B.A is an voluntary organization devoted to lawyers and law students. In collecting the data, the A.B.A. requires law schools to make an annual statement about their statistics and statuses. Specific information comes from the admission offices, financial aid offices, and career centers. In reporting the student demographics, law schools do not require their students to identify their gender. Also, there may be students who are not listed as women or men. Thus, some exact numbers are replaced by estimates.
Law schools are not without their fears. Enrollment has dropped 30% since 2010 and has only recently began to plateau. A quick Google search would show you numerous articles that have been published warning students about the risks of attending law schools. But, at this very moment in the United States, there are approximately 55, 766 women who are studying for a juris doctor degree. A demographic breakdown shows that first-year classes are made up of more than 51 percent women, or 19,032 students, while 48.6%, 18,058 students, of the class are men. These successes are results from the increased efforts put in by the admissions office to reach out to female prospective students.
Still, we cannot fully celebrate just yet. Law School Transparency, another organization, released data showing that more women are enrolling as students in law schools, but most of them are enrolling in lower-ranked schools. Most of these schools have an inadequate supply of academic and career resources, and are unable to thoroughly support their students. Another NYTimes article, titled “More Law Degrees for Women, but Fewer Good Jobs” expresses similar concerns about the job prospects for women pursuing a legal profession. A larger number of female law students is not establishing a promise securing jobs after graduation. The educational paths that women choose are consequently shaping their post-graduate lives. Fewer than 20 percent of partnerships at law firms are law school alumnae and even fewer are represented in the higher echelons of law
Starting with the class of 2018, Harvard Law School has allowed for more flexibility in asking about gender. The application scraps the typical M/F question and allows for more than one check, as well as providing a write-in option. Sean, a current student who is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community on campus, speaks about the progress that the institution has made, but stresses the importance of supporting historically and currently marginalized students surmount the barriers that they face on the “elite law school track”. While some work has been done, there are still many developing goals that need more attention and support from the nation.