Women Not Attending Law School
Mike Madison has a post about advice for a new law dean that suggests law schools should emulate business schools and require that a prospective student have a few years of work experience before being admitted. [UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Prof. Madison’s post speaks of “a minimum of two years’ of experience in the world before enrolling in school.” I speak of work experience which for me absolutely includes a broad range of activities, not just Wall Street or similar jobs.] Oddly enough it appears that women are not heading straight to law school but not because of any such policy. The National Law Journal reports that the number of women in law school has dropped since 2002. The article indicates that the reason behind this shift is unclear: some point to women being able to earn more than men right out of college in several major metropolitan areas; some note that a few newer schools have greater disparity in enrollment and they may skew the figures; and some note that the press has covered how law firms may not be the most friendly places for women given the lack of female partners and trouble in retaining women in general at firms (“In 2006, just 17.9 percent of partners in law firms were women, according to NALP, a nonprofit organization that tracks legal careers. Meanwhile, 44.3 percent of associates were women.”) Last the article suggests that even with flexible hours, day-care, and paid maternity leaves, the bottom line at most firms creates a world where one is on-call all the time and the hours are not what women want. Maybe, but that seems inaccurate.
The article offers a woman who went to Morgan Stanley for the “instant gratification” of a high-paying job, a year-end bonus, and living in Manhattan rather than three more years of school as an example of better options for women. One partner suggested that women are not going into law because “They’ve grown up with parents that work these crazy hours. They don’t want to do it.” Right so they go to investment banks for the laid back hours and to join the myriad women at the top of the investment bank world. With that choice in mind, something else may be in play.
It may be that women are heading for jobs in part because they are seeing that going to law school as some sort of default is not so wise and immediate opportunities are simply available. If so, after a few years maybe they will look to law school as a possibility. In other words, although law firms and their retention problems probably do figure into the equation, the article seems to suggest that women do not want to work hard. That cannot be accurate if they are choosing the other job options out there. None of these statements is to undercut the point that law firms will likely have to change their environment if they are to retain women. Indeed, if women are choosing to work but just not at law firms that may say something rather dire about law firms.