Archive for ‘Law Students’

March 17, 2011

Various Articles Lead to the Same Conclusion: Women’s Experiences in Law School are Unique

by Angela N. Johnson

Taken together, the articles reflected upon in “Hey There’s Ladies Here!” persuade the authors “that a substantial proportion of law students – many, but by no means all of them, women students – experience frustration, or alienation, or both, because of law schools’ failure to engage and develop the full range of intellectual capacities necessary for successful and responsible practice . . . legal education must be broadened and deepened to encompass neglected but important aspects of the intellectual work that legal professionals do” (Berger, et al. 1998, 1025).

“Hey There’s Ladies Here!” reflects on Becoming Gentlemen: Women, Law School, and Institutional Change by Lani Guinier, Michelle Fine, and Jane Balin, Women in Legal Education: A Comparison of the Law School Performance and Law School Experiences of Women and Men by Linda F. Wightman, Law School Admissions Council, What Difference Does Difference Make?: The Challenge for Legal Education by Elizabeth Mertz with Wamucci Njogu and Susan Gooding, and Cultivating Intelligence: Power, Law, and the Politics of Teaching by Louise Harmon and Deborah W. Post.

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February 2, 2011

Bullying in Law School

by Angela N. Johnson

Rebecca Flanagan’s article, “Lucifer Goes to Law School” is not in itself an article on women as law students, however it focuses on the underlying concerns of law students surveyed in the Yale study, Schwab’s survey, and the Law School Student Engagement research. Flanagan notes that due to the extreme shock of the first year of law school and the law school environment generally, “bullying behaviors [are] both a cause and a response to student depression, anxiety, and substance abuse . . . bullying is the unnamed missing link in the causal chain between the law school curriculum and the prevalence of depression and substance abuse in law schools” (Flanagan 453). Flanagan states that due to the research on the experience of women and students of color in law schools which has documented the deleterious impact of the law school environment on academic achievement, self-esteem, and confident of non-traditional students, women and minorities are likely hit the hardest. Though bullying rarely involves physical violence, the emotional and mental harms transfer to physical ailments in the form of substance abuse.

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February 2, 2011

Gendered Experiences in Law School Fade in the 2L and 3L Years

by Angela N. Johnson

Contrary to similar studies undertaken in previous years, Claire Schwab’s “A Shifting Gender Divide: The Impact of Gender on Education at Columbia Law School in the New Millennium” purports women’s experience in law school isn’t 180 degrees different from male students, rather it just isn’t a “gender-neutral one” (Schwab).  While other reports have indicated a radical difference in law school experience based on gender with an assumption that the disparity remains through all three-years of law study, Schwab discovers that most struggles in law school are felt by both male and female students and that experiences are largely the same with smaller varying degrees of differences felt by women students.  Further, any differences felt by 1L women law students are diminished in the 2L and 3L years.  Schwab argues that the experiences of women law students are first and foremost that of a first year student (of any gender), and only secondly that of a woman.  Surveys revealed that the same difficulties that plague female law students also concern male students; this “common nature” of the same concerns among both genders highlights the idea that women do not altogether survive an alternate or differing experience than their male classmates. 

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February 2, 2011

Female Law Student Demographics; Don’t Buy The Hype!

by Angela N. Johnson

A report published by the American Bar Association (“ABA”) yields insight into the gender disparity of law students for the years 1947-2008. It becomes clear in studying the charts of first year male enrollment and first year female enrollment, that women have never comprised one-half of 1L law students. This isn’t to say that women have not comprised half of 1L law students at any particular law school; in fact I’m sure this is likely. However, just one year (the 1992-1993 academic year) females comprised slightly more than half of all law students (49.6% men to 50.4% female (with a numerical difference of 1,076)).  However, the following year, the divide was sharp, with male law students comprising 56.9% and female law students at 43.1%.  Since then, women have continued to lag behind men in law school enrollment. What is further troubling is that the gap narrowed once again in the years 2000-2002, only to widen in the 2002-2003 academic year. In the 2000-2001 academic year total first year male enrollment was 22,019, compared to total first year female enrollment at 21,499; representing just a 520 person difference. The following year was also promising, with just a 562 person difference. However, in the 2002-2003 academic year the gap was blown wide open once again with a 1,259 disparity. It appears that while female enrollment jumped significantly (female first year enrollment increased by 1,333 from the previous year) first year male enrollment increased by 1.5x the rate of female enrollment (male first year enrollment increased by 2,030 from the previous year). Even more alarming is the fact that from 2002-2003, the gap continues to widen significantly, spiking in the 2006-2007 academic year.

Below are two graphs I created based on the ABA Data to further demonstrate the disparity:

Source: American Bar Association. “Enrollment and Degrees Awarded (1947-2008 Academic Years).” 2009.

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February 1, 2011

Women Law Students Less Likely to Drop-Out

by Angela N. Johnson

Having previously analyzed ABA data on law student attrition rates (in terms of raw numbers) and on total enrollment individually, I came to the conclusion that my spreadsheet on attrition rates would yield much greater insight if I could convert the raw numbers (for example, x male students discontinued their law studies in year x) into actual percentages (x% of male students and x% of female students discontinued their law studies). The reason this was important to me was because women have never made up an equal percentage of law students.  In fact, my data analysis reflects that the disparity is increasing! So its nearly worthless to know x number of male students and x number of female students discontinued their studies without knowing the actual portion (or, percentage).  In other words, I compared the total 1L male enrollment vs. 1L male attrition and then separately compared the total 1L female enrollment vs. the 1L female attrition.

I was pleased to find that my hypothesis was correct; when accounting for male enrollment v. male attrition and female enrollment v. female attrition, women are more likely than men to continue their legal studies.  In fact, from 1981-2008 there were no years in which women 1L law student attrition rates (in percentages) were higher than male 1L law students. Moreover, there were just four total occurrences from 1981-2008 in which women’s attrition was higher than male students (3L attrition for females was higher than males in the 2005-2006 school year; 4L (part-time students in their final year) attrition for females was higher than males in the 2006-2007, 2005-2006, and 1986-1987 school years. However, these rates represent raw numbers and do not take into consideration the total proportion of male and female law students individually since total enrollment for 2L, 3L, and 4L is not available.  So it is extremely likely that the percentage of males maintaining a higher attrition rate stands across the board.

Below is the graph I created based on the ABA data:

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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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