Thursday, November 22, 2012

Women and Law

This is a really interesting post by Lawyers, Guns & Money.  There were so many factors contributing to my decision to leave law, primarily, obviously, that I wanted a different, specific career.  Whether the gender inequality in the reality of the profession (that played out in, oh, so many delightfully ugly ways) was one of them is hard for me to tease out, but it certainly didn't make staying more attractive.

Clearly, the fact that law schools have produced an enormous oversupply of people with law degrees over the course of the last generation has an extremely significant gender component. These statistics raise all sorts of questions, and in particular this one: To what extent has legal academia’s over-expansion depended on the exploitation of the career aspirations of women in particular? Note that there’s all sorts of evidence that egalitarian gender practices in regard to law school admissions have had a remarkably muted effect in regard to making law less of a male-dominated profession (For example, 35 years after women started going to law school in numbers not much smaller than men, 85% of the partners and 95% of the managing partners at large law firms are men). 
Have law schools managed to expand far beyond the actual economic demand for law degrees in large part because of an always unstated and usually unconscious assumption that comparatively large numbers of women law graduates would drop out of the profession within a few years of graduation? One of the very few longitudinal studies of law graduate career paths suggests strongly this is the case. This study of the University of Virginia Law School class of 1990 found that while, 17 years after graduation, 98.7% of the men who responded to the survey were working full-time, approximately 63% of the women respondents who had had at least one child were not practicing law full-time. (By contrast, there was literally no correlation between the number of children a man had had and the likelihood that he would be employed full-time).

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