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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Monopoli: Gender and the Crisis in Legal Education

Paula A. Monopoli (Maryland), Gender and the Crisis in Legal Education: Remaking the Academy in Our Image:

American legal education is in the grip of what some have called an “existential crisis.” The New York Times proclaims the death of the current system of legal education. This is attributed, in part, to the incentivizing of faculty to produce increasingly abstract scholarship and the costs this imposes on pedagogy and the mentoring of students. At the same time, despite women graduating from law schools in significant numbers since the 1980s, they continue to lag behind in the most prestigious positions in academia — tenured, full professorships: From academic year 1998-99 to academic year 2007-08, the percentage of women full professors grew from 20% to 29.3%. In this paper, I argue that these two phenomena — the incentivizing of scholarship at the expense of pedagogy and the slow progress of women to tenured, full professorships — are linked. The trend toward exclusively incentivizing scholarship imposes a disproportionate cost on women faculty who carry a much greater share of the caregiving and household responsibilities in their families. These women are also burdened by a disproportionate share of the student caregiving and institutional “housework” on committees inside law schools. In this paper, I argue that the external pressure on law schools created by the crisis actually presents an opportunity for women faculty. Part I describes the origins of the modern university and the unified model of teaching and scholarship. Part II evaluates the costs of this model to legal education as highlighted by the critics in the current crisis. Part III explores the heightened cost to women law faculty of this model adopted from the broader university. And Part IV offers suggestions for fundamentally restructuring the legal academy to provide a level playing field for women faculty and to facilitate their movement in equal numbers into tenured, full professorships.

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I thought that Monopoli was going to write about the real gender crisis in legal education, which is of course the one faced by female students. Women’s high representation in law schools, including schools outside of the top 14, means that they will now share equally in the disastrous fate that will befall the great majority of JD grads. Campos, being the only individual to consistently write honestly on these topics, addressed the gender element here:

However, the situation is even worse for new female law grads for another reason. The Havard to Biglaw standard pathway will no longer make any financial sense for most women. The median (not mean) student debt for the JD class of 2015 at the top 14 schools will likely be approximately $270,000 (that assumes no undergrad debt, but no scholarship to law school). I calculate that this will take a minimum of six years in Biglaw to repay in total. If one assumes a 6.8% interest rate, the total amount repaid will be about $330,000, which is $55,000 per year. That is feasible on a Biglaw salary in six years, but the debtor/associate will have to live a very spartan lifestyle (not what they envisioned), and will be left with almost no savings.

Most female associates in Biglaw do not aspire to continue beyond 5-6 years. When I worked at an Amlaw 50 firm, I saw a steady stream of women leaving at this mark, and you frequently (maybe incessantly) hear female associates planning a career move to a job with less time requirement. In addition, very very few associates of any gender are making partner any longer. So, the choice to leave is no always the associate’s. Also, when Biglaw associates leave a firm after 6+ years it is very hard for them to find new employment unless they can lateral to another big firm. They have no experience that is relevant to small law. I know that from having worked in both levels.

What is the point of all this? Except for rare circumstances, almost every outcome for female law grads will be a bad one.

Now, does Monopoli care about this? Of course not. Remember, Baby Boomers only ever fight the same battles they did in the 1980s. And, at the end of the day, they only advocate for themselves and those exactly like them. Even Monopoli’s own statistics would indicate that in the last decade, women have been hired at an equal (or perhaps greater!) rate for full-time professorship positions. If female representation went up by 10% in that time, then total full-time faculty turnover would have to exceed 20% in that ten year period for men to have been hired in greater numbers. I find that impossible, and in fact find it much more likely that total faculty turnover was around 15%.

At the end of the day, the type of narcissism and short-sightedness exemplified by Monopoli will result in the collapse of legal higher education.

Posted by: JM | Aug 25, 2013 8:28:10 AM

$270,000 median debt, without undergrad loans? You might not then be aware that well qualified students are getting more money these days, not less. And law school tuition is not $90K, and probably never will be.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 25, 2013 1:45:54 PM

Quit making excuses and compete.

Posted by: Lonnie Less | Aug 26, 2013 7:06:23 PM