Friday, November 1, 2019
Deborah Jones Merritt & Kyle P. McEntee, Gender Equity in Law School Enrollment: An Elusive Goal, Journal of Legal Education (forthcoming)
Women finally make up more than half of law students nationwide, but that milestone masks significant gender inequities in law school enrollment. Women constitute an even larger percentage of the potential applicant pool: for almost two decades, they have earned more than 57% of all college degrees. As we show in this article, women are less likely than men to apply to law school — or to be admitted if they do apply. Equally troubling, women attend less prestigious law schools than men. The law schools that open the most employment doors for their graduates enroll significantly fewer women than schools with worse job outcomes and weaker access to the legal profession.
We explore here the factors that may contribute to this ongoing gender gap in law school attendance. We also propose several strategies for closing the gap. Enrollment equity alone will not put women on an equal footing with men; a sizable literature probes gender biases that pervade the law school environment. Recognizing and addressing the enrollment gap in legal education, however, is an essential first step toward improving the representation of women throughout the legal profession.