TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, November 19, 2012

Brown: A Real World Approach to Law Faculty Diversity

National Law Journal op-ed:  A Real World Approach to Diversity, by Dorothy A. Brown (Emory):

Focus on work experience would lead to a more diverse faculty, better able to impart what students need to know.

Law school faculty hiring has been in the news of late. The recent lawsuit against the University of Iowa College of Law over a charge of anti-conservative political bias in faculty hiring resulted in a partial jury verdict: a finding of no violation of the plaintiff's First Amendment claims and a hung jury on her due process and equal protection claims. The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) annual Faculty Recruitment Conference (affectionately known as the "meat market"), where prospective law faculty interviewed for jobs, recently concluded in Washington. As you are reading this, those same applicants are being flown all around the country for full-day interviews in the hopes that they will land a coveted tenure-track job.

Just like the market for lawyers, the market for law faculty is extremely competitive. There are far more applicants than available slots. As our students struggle to get jobs, prospective law faculty struggle to get hired. ...

Who gets hired as a law professor and therefore trains tomorrow's leaders is often a function of who their mentors were while they were in law school. The problem with that, however, is which students get mentored has a decided race and gender bias. The majority of law professors are white and male. The majority of new law teachers are white and male. The most recent data on the AALS website shows that 71% of all law professors who self-identified are white (two-thirds are men; one-third are women). To be sure, there are examples of cross-racial mentoring. However, experience teaches us that we tend to invest time in those who remind us of ourselves. ...

A couple of weeks ago New York University School of Law announced that it had revamped its third-year program. NYU wants its law graduates to be trained to be "collaborative problem solvers who are able to function effectively in teams and are prepared to lead those teams." Very little in the current FAR helps a prospective employer find future academics who have those skills and can impart them to their students. That is a problem. In fact, if a law professor gets hired who actually has a 21st century skill set, it likely was not intentional. Here's the $64,000 question: With NYU making changes to its third-year curriculum to create 21st-century-ready graduates, are they going to change who they hire? How can they teach what they don't know? ...

The good news is that roughly half of all entry-level teachers get their jobs through the meat market — which means that half do not. Therefore if law schools want to bypass the meat market they can make changes themselves. All they have to do is let it be known that they want to hire people with experience in successfully working in teams and who care about teaching collaborative learning skills. Those schools will not have to wait long for the right kind of candidates to apply for jobs. However, I'm not holding my breath.

(Hat Tip: Francine Lipman.)

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I am a little confused. The blog post indicates that 71% of law professors are white. Isn't that the general percentage population of whites persons in the country?

While the split of white males to females should be more 50-50, are we shooting for a different overall percentage of whites in law school faculty?

If so, I am confused about the concept of diversity at play. I though it should reflect the diversity of the population and correct for underrepresented groups?

Posted by: Startup | Nov 19, 2012 7:35:55 AM

It's race and gender bias because it roughly reflects the national demographic? Most of the people I know who practice collaborative law, mediation, and arbitration are white males and a few females. These pratitioners with 21st century skillsets are not youngsters but middle-aged lawyers who saw the change in the market and adapted to it. Can you consider this critique about law professors needing 21st century skills seriously when it comes from someone who is an expert Critical Race Theory? That is so 20th century.

Posted by: TexEcon | Nov 19, 2012 9:44:50 AM

Diversity = incomprehensible glop.

Posted by: Jake | Nov 19, 2012 7:04:37 PM