Archive for January 5th, 2011

January 5, 2011

Women Law Students Equal in Number, Not in Experience

by Angela N. Johnson

Sari Bashi and Maryana Iskander say that legal education is failing women (according to their 2006 study).  This, by far, is the best work I’ve read to date. 

“Law school professors treat women differently from men, and as institutions, law schools cultivate and reward patterns of behavior that are more likely to be found among men than among women, even though these behaviors do not necessarily reflect the skills students need to be good lawyers, judges, and legal academics” (Bashi and Iskander 389). More specifically, the study revealed that male faculty members are less likely to push or challenge women’s ideas and integrate female students into class discussions.  This disengagement creates a disparate learning environment for women.  Not only does this translate to a disadvantage for women in the law school setting but this can hinder women’s success in the legal profession beyond graduation because “relationships with law school faculty members provide students with information, guidance, encouragement, mentoring, and professional credentials and contacts” (Bashi and Iskander 389). According to Bashi and Iskander, the inadvertent prejudiced against women can be lessened if “law schools reconsider what values they cultivate and reward” which will “provide a better education for women and men alike” (Bashi and Iskander 389). While it is true that women comprise close to half of incoming law school classes (and have since 2001), the authors argue that if women are to truly realize equality in the legal profession, they must become fully integrated into the law school experience.  At no point in their article do the authors make any accusation of intentional discrimination. Rather, there is an inherent occurrence of discrimination based on the way female students are treated (women are challenged less frequently in classroom settings). Further, the authors acknowledge that making changes to the law school experience is not the only barrier keeping women from fully integrating into the legal profession.  Rather, absent such transformation, full integration is unlikely to take place.

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