Frequently Asked Questions

Since judges are charged with the task of ruling fairly and impartially and most male judges have women in their lives (mothers/sisters/daughters/wives), why does it matter how many women are serving as judges?

Studies have shown that male federal appellate court judges are less likely to rule against plaintiffs bringing claims of sex discrimination, if a female judge is on the panel.  This is just one such example of the impact women have on judicial decision-making.  Moreover, when women are represented on courts, those courts are more reflective of the diverse population of this nation; thereby increasing the level of confidence and improving the quality of justice by bringing an understanding of the impact of the law on the lives of women.

Do women comprise an equal portion of judicial law clerks?

Women comprise an equal portion of law clerks working in state courts, the U.S. District Courts, and the U.S. Courts of Appeals.  However, they have never comprised more than1/3 of U.S. Supreme Court clerks. In fact, in the 2005-2006 term, women represented just 7 of the 37 law clerks.  12 ofthe 36 law clerks hired for the 2010-2011 term are women; Justices Roberts, Sotomayor, Breyer, Kagan, and Ginsburg each hired two women; Alito and Thomas hired just one woman, and Scalia hired no women.

Women are now earning undergraduate and other professional degrees in numbers equal to or greater than men, do they also comprise an equal proportion of law students?

No, contrary to popular belief (and false reporting in the media and even college textbooks), women do not comprise an equal proportion of all law students in this country.  However, there are a few law schools with classes wherein women are equal or even a slight majority of law students (University of California at Berkley is one example who have had classes in recent years with a slight majority of female students).  The 2010 American Bar Association statistics show that in 2010, women comprised 47% of all first year law students and 44% of all (1L, 2L, 3L, and 4L/Part-time Final Year) law students.   These statistics have remained roughly the same since the 2006-2007 school year.  In the 2002-2003 school year, women comprised 49.05% – but declined in years thereafter.

Since women tend to have more family responsibilities, are they more likely to drop out of law school?

No.  When comparing the ABA Statistics on Total Male and Female JD Attrition and Total JD Enrollment, I found that between 1981-2008 with the exception of four years, men dropped out of law school at higher rates (not just in raw numbers, but percentage of all males) more often than women. Studies also show that when comparing men and women law students who have children living at home, women outperform men (though both men and women with children living at home perform less well than their childless classmates).

This page was last updated on April 20, 2011, but is constantly being updated so please check back frequently!


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