Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be lawyers, as Willie Nelson might have sung. At least if the mamas want their children to have jobs when they graduate and not just a huge debt. Many law schools have apparently not been scrupulous in keeping their student bodies at a level commensurate with the possibilities of employment, because there was and is so much money to be made from churning out more degrees.

And, it seems, by selling them as support for sexual equality. A friend, a lawyer who observes the world of law schools with some concern, sends the link to an article on gender dynamics of law graduate overproduction  from a website called Inside the Law School Scam . Which reports that:

More than 100% of the growth in JD enrollment at ABA law schools over the past 40 years is accounted for by the increasing number of women going to law school.   There were 55,063 more JD students at ABA law schools in 2011 than 1971.  59,665 more women were enrolled as JD students in ABA law schools in 2011 than in 1971, while 4,632 fewer men were enrolled as JD students in ABA law schools in 2011 than in 1971.

Clearly, the fact that law schools have produced an enormous oversupply of people with law degrees over the course of the last generation has an extremely significant gender component.  These statistics raise all sorts of questions, and in particular this one:  To what extent has legal academia’s over-expansion depended on the exploitation of the career aspirations of women in particular?   Note that there’s all sorts of evidence that egalitarian gender practices in regard to law school admissions have had a remarkably muted effect in regard to making law less of a male-dominated profession (For example, 35 years after women started going to law school in numbers not much smaller than men, 85% of the partners and 95% of the managing partners at large law firms are men).

Have law schools managed to expand far beyond the actual economic demand for law degrees in large part because of an always unstated and usually unconscious assumption that comparatively large numbers of women law graduates would drop out of the profession within a few years of graduation?  One of the very few longitudinal studies of law graduate career paths suggests strongly this is the case.  This  study  of the University of Virginia Law School class of 1990 found that while, 17 years after graduation, 98.7% of the men who responded to the survey were working full-time, approximately 63% of the women respondents who had had at least one child were not practicing law full-time. (By contrast, there was literally no correlation between the number of children a man had had and the likelihood that he would be employed full-time).

The article and the site in general suggests that law schools are operated with a good deal of cynicism, which is not encouraging.

Articles by David Mills


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