While more women are attending law school in the U.S., their attendance is disproportionate to men attending higher-ranked universities.
Even though women make up nearly half of all law school attendees — 49.4% — in the nation, females are more likely to attend lower-tiered universities. At top-tired schools, women make up 46% of the student population, but in lower quality colleges, 53% are women.
This data was collected by Deborah Jones Merritt, an Ohio State Mortiz College of Law professor, and Kyle McEntee, the executive director of Law School Transparency. The pair published their findings in Bloomberg Law.
The authors explained to ABA Journal that this gender disparity is relatively new.
“Even more disturbing, this relegation of women to low-status law schools is new—and growing,” the authors wrote. “The pattern didn’t exist in 2001 when law schools first reached gender parity. Traces of the pattern began to emerge in 2006, and it was more prominent by 2011. Today, the discrepancy is stark.”
McEntee and Merritt believe part of the blame could be placed on the U.S. News & World Report’s law school ratings, which rank law universities by their average LSAT score. On average, women score less on the LSATs even though they regularly have higher college GPAs than men.
The gender gap has been shown to have negative consequences for women in the law field. Overall, since men come from higher-tiered schools, they are more likely to have better job prospects than women. This ultimately results in women earning lower wages, having little to no job security, and fewer opportunities for personal advancement.
What’s more, these disadvantages have worse implications for women. Merritt goes on to explain that despite the high amount of women law graduates, women hold fewer than 20% of partnerships in law firms and are severely underrepresented in the higher sectors of law including corporate counsel, law school deans, judges, and professors.
For perspective, 1,268,011 U.S. men and women practiced as lawyers in 2012.