Female enrollment in law schools continues to climb. Last year, for the first time, women made up the majority of law students. This year, the numbers rule in their favor again.
The 2017 data, released earlier this year, shows the percentages of female and male J.D. students enrolled at each of the 203 ABA-approved law schools in the United States. In 2017, female enrollment was at 56,490 law students outpacing their male classmates (53,645 law students).
However, when looking at the top 20 law schools in the country, only 6 actually increased female enrollment figures – NYU Law, Northwestern University, University of California – Berkeley, Georgetown University, UCLA, and Vanderbilt University.
These six schools not only saw their female enrollment numbers rise, but they also now have more female law students attending their schools than male law students. Take Berkeley for example. Female enrollment at that law school is at 60.1%.
When you consider the top 20 law schools based on female enrollment, Berkeley takes the 11th spot, falling behind programs that rarely make the US News Rankings Top 20, including, Howard University (69.4%), Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School (67.7%), Northeastern University (65.0%), the University of the District of Columbia (63.8%), American University (63.3%), Golden Gate University (62.2%), Florida A&M University (61.9%), North Carolina Central University (61.5%), New England Law – Boston (60.8%), and City University of New York (60.8%).
With female enrollment numbers rising at law schools in all three tiers, will the face of leadership in the legal profession change?
Currently, when you look at the numbers, women are by no means the majority. According to the ABA Commission on Women in the Professionalism’s 2017 report – “A Current Glance at Women in the Law“, the numbers for women in the profession start out strong, but quickly taper off as these women advance in their careers.
In law firms, women make up 48.7% of summer associate and 45% of associate hires. However, less than 25% of women serve as partners and only about 18% serve as managing or equity partners.
Outside of law firms, this trend continues. Women lack leadership roles in both Fortune 500 and Fortune 501-1000 companies too. In fact, women make up only 24.8% of general counsels in Fortune 500 companies and 19.8% in Fortune 501-1000 companies.
To no surprise, female representation in the judiciary and law school administration at the dean level look identical to other areas of leadership in the profession.
It is clear there is a disconnect. With a record number of women attending law school, there is no excuse for such a large discrepancy in the profession’s leadership. The female enrollment numbers prove that diverse talent is out there. It’s on the profession to retain it.