Monday, August 10, 2020

First-of-its-Kind Millennial/Xennial Scholars Roundtable on the Future of Legal Education - by Professor Veronica Gonzales-Zamora

In an effort to build community and inspire collective action, my co-moderator Marcus Gadson of Campbell School of Law in Raleigh and I invited 30 millennial (born between 1981-1997) [1]  and xennial (1977-1983) [2]  law scholars from 23 different institutions to join a Millennial/Xennial Scholars Roundtable on July 13. The purpose was to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement on legal education. This is the first explicitly generation-based gathering of Millennial/Xennial law professors in the U.S. in law academia.

The idea for a roundtable was born when I began researching for a work-in-progress about the experience of millennials/xennials in the legal academy, with an emphasis on millennial women of color, an underrepresented group.[3]  Finding that there were not enough diverse voices from other millennial law professors from which to conduct my research, [4]  I set out to learn about the experiences of others in my cohort. A quick email to a couple of listservs and to colleagues I met at the AALS New Law Teachers Conference in 2019 led me to 30 different scholars, primarily BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color), including Professor Gadson, who offered to help. Together, we coordinated the program and invited these junior scholars from across the country to both create community and foster collaboration.

The Roundtable offered a chance for participants to build community over our shared worldview as a generational cohort and to reflect on the impact of race, class, gender, and place on our collective and individual identities. The scholars who participated in the Roundtable represented a variety of academic disciplines as diverse as our experiences. The expertise of the group included, for example, civil procedure, immigration, aging, clinical law, medicine, feminist legal theory, food justice, and community organizing to name a few. The agenda boasted an all-women group of mentors and renowned scholars including Professor Margaret Montoya (Latino/a critical race theory scholar), Professor Meera E. Deo (empirical data scientist studying barriers for underrepresented faculty), and Dean Laura Rosenbury (feminist legal theory scholar).

 “The convergence of the BLM movement with the COVID-19 pandemic with its disproportionately severe effects on Black and Latinx communities creates an opening that is particularly salient for millennial/xennial law professors. The street protests have been organized and led by inspiring young activists. Their counterparts in the legal academy, especially young law faculty of color, have compelling stories, a range of new skills, and innovative analyses to enrich and transform the legal academy’s culture and future trajectories. In this time of upheaval, they can chart new directions,” said Professor Margaret Montoya, Professor Emerita of Law and Visiting Professor in University of New Mexico’s Department of Family & Community Medicine, who presented at the Roundtable as a mentor.

Several law professors shared the challenge of being the only millennial or xennial law professor on their faculty. Professor Meera E. Deo noted the challenges in data collection amongst law faculty, [5]  making it difficult to know how many millennial/xennial law faculty there are in the legal academy. University of New Mexico School of Law, for example, has five law professors in the cohort including me, Joseph Gallardo, Alejandro Rettig y Martinez, Joseph Schremmer, and Lysette Romero Córdova. While this age cohort is growing in number, the general decline and latest freezes in hiring [6] and declines in admissions indicate that our cohort may be underrepresented in the legal academy in the future.

One thing I found interesting was that several young faculty of color reported that they had been mistaken for law students rather than being recognized as law professors. My research centers around the invisible labor that comes with overcoming biases about who does and does not ‘look like a law professor.’ Students may be signaling that they expect young people of color in their diverse student bodies but not necessarily in their law faculty, who are primarily older white males. Young faculty of color are burdened with the need to first build credibility in order to overcome presumed incompetence based on race, gender, and age, [7]  but some never overcome it. Once you factor in the disparities inherent in being the first generation to have experienced two economic recessions during our early careers, [8]  you see that we have our work cut out for us among students and colleagues.

Professors Alexander Boni-Saenz and Troy Andrade discussed the need for anti-racism policies to permeate every part of the curriculum, such as student evaluations, tenure review, and grant opportunities, beyond the statements issued by law faculty. Professors Lysette Romero Córdova and Kinda L. Abdus-Saboor shared the impact of the pandemic on women of color, both students and faculty who may be juggling classwork with caregiving responsibilities. Others shared that their faculty will sometimes not take their ideas seriously or will request that the youngest faculty on committees do the bulk of the administrative work without recognizing their contributions.

“The Roundtable was an incredible bonding experience. It was helpful to see a group of young scholars all encountering common challenges and being passionate about lifting up diverse voices and tackling difficult issues in the academy. The Roundtable was hopefully the first of many and we plan to continue meeting, whether to discuss how we can innovate in legal education, use our knowledge and resources to advance the cause of justice, or help each other produce scholarship at the highest level,” says Professor Gadson. This fall, Professor Gadson and I are working with others in our cohort to submit for publication a collection of essays developing the ideas discussed at the Roundtable.


[1] Millennials are defined as anyone born between 1981-1996. See Michael Dimock, Defining Generations: Where Millennials End and Generation Z Begins, Pew Research Center (Jan. 17, 2019),

[2] Shana Lebowitz, There’s A Term for People Born in the Early 80s Who Don’t Feel Like a Millennial or a Gen X-er – Here’s Everything We Know, Business Insider (Mar. 10, 2018, 6:45 PM),

[3] There has been some interest in the topic, variations of which were selected for presentation at the 2021 AALS Annual Conference. For example, the Section on Aging and the Law panel on Intersectionality, Aging, and the Law selected for presentation my paper on millennial women of color and Professor Alexander Boni-Saenz’s paper on age diversity. The Women in Legal Education AALS Panel on Gender, Power, and Pedagogy in the Pandemic also selected for discussion my topic on the consequences of social isolation for “super-moms” in the academy.

[4] There is some scholarship describing the experience of millennial law faculty, in some cases authored by millennial and xennial law faculty. See, e.g., Ashley Krenelka Chase, Upending the Double Life of Law Schools: Millennials in the Legal Academy, 44 U. Dayton L. Rev. 1 (2018), See also Millennial Leadership in Law Schools: Essays on Disruption, Innovation, and the Future (Ashley Krenelka Chase ed., to be published by Hein in 2020) and Call for Proposals (May 29, 2019), (“[This book] will seek to explore the role millennials will play – as faculty, administrators, or staff members – in shaping the future of legal education.”).

[5] See generally Meera E. Deo, Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia (2019),

[6] See Sarah Lawsky, Spring Self-Reported Entry Level Hiring Report 2019, (June 04, 2019),  (indicating that in 2012 there were 143 total entry-level hires at 96 schools and in 2019 there were 82 total entry-level hires at 60 schools, based on self-reports). See also Dr. Karen Kelsky, “Incomplete/Unofficial/Unconfirmed List of Schools That Have Announced Hiring Freezes or Pauses,” The Professor Is In. (Apr. 18, 2020) (click on google document) (indicating as of Aug. 10, 2020 that 408 higher education institutions nationwide have announced hiring freezes or pauses based on self reports).

[7] See generally Renee N. Allen, & DeShun Harris, #SocialJustice: Combatting Implicit Bias in an Age of Millennials, Colorblindness, & Microaggressions, 18 U. Md. L.J. Race Relig. Gender & Class 1 (2018),

[8] See Zoe Fenson, For Millennials ‘once in a generation‘ came around twice, The Week (June 30, 2020), See also Catherine Bosley et al., How millennials are being set back by back-to-back global crises, Fortune (Apr. 11, 2020),; Hannes Schwandt & Toll von Wachter, Unlucky Cohorts: Estimating the Long-Term Effects of Entering the Labor Market in a Recession in Large Cross-Sectional Data Sets, 37 J. of Labor Econ. S161 (2019),

Verónica C. Gonzales-Zamora is an Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law.

| Permalink


Post a comment