Paul L. Caron

Monday, August 22, 2016

Women Ascend In Deanships As Law Schools Undergo Dramatic Change


ABA Perspectives: A Magazine For and About Women Lawyers, Vol. 24, No. 4, Summer 2016, at 8:

In September, [Lewis & Clark Dean Jennifer] Johnson will host the first Gathering of Women Law School Deans, a day-long event to facilitate conversations on topics of mutual interest. The challenges are especially acute now as the world of legal education undergoes a seismic shift. ...

[W]omen law deans and their male counterparts are restructuring, innovating, and charting essential decisions that will affect the future of legal education. "The qualities of a good dean are a willingness to consult broadly on the issues that you face, while not bothering the faculty on matters they don't want to be bothered with," says [former Georgetown Dean Judith] Areen, adding, "it takes judgment."

Rising Number of  Women Law Deans
As of July 31, 2016, 61 women—a solid 30 percent—hold the position of law dean in ABA-approved law schools, and the number is likely to increase by the start of the next academic year. Since 2006, the number of women law deans has doubled, and it has more than quadrupled since 1997 when only 14 women held the title of law dean. ... The percentage of women law deans still lags behind that of full-time women professors, who account for 41 percent of faculty, ... and even further behind that of women law students, who constituted 49.3 percent of the 1Ls in 2014-15.

Women law deans sit at institutions throughout the country. Three of the four top-ranked law schools in the most recent U.S. News and  World listing have women deans [Martha Minow (Harvard), Elizabeth Magill (Stanford), Gillian Lester (Columbia)]. ...

Insiders and Outsiders Take the Helm
The path to the dean's office often emerges for law faculty who move to the administrative side. Jennifer Mnookin is such an "inside dean." In June 2015, she was appointed dean of UCLA School of law in Los Angeles, having joined the faculty 10 years earlier and served in two different vice dean positions. ...

While law deans in the past were scholarly know for scholarly prowess, the tasks of being a dean today go well beyond that. Deanell Reece Tacha accepted the dean's position at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California, in 2011 after serving 25 years as a judge on the Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. In both positions, "you're working with a collegial group," said Tacha. But a dean's role is more layered. "Being a dean, one has to pay very close attention to all parts of the legal profession—to the employment market, to admissions, to faculty responsibilities, to alumni, to university administrators, to local and state bars," she explains. "I've found the complexity of it very interesting—and very challenging."

Tacha was among a few women law students in her class in the late 1960s and never had a single woman law professor. "It would be naive to say that there still aren't challenges the women face, despite the numbers," Tacha points out. "I could say I've been helpful to women students in modeling their own careers and how they react when certain implicit biases or sexist things occur." ...

The need for fresh thinking about legal education assures that the law school of the future will look very different from the law school of the past, women deans agree. Adds Areen, "This is a very good time for women law deans."

Legal Education | Permalink


Or, "women ascend as deans at the moment that law schools become less appealing." You can look at it either way, can't you?

Posted by: mike livingston | Aug 23, 2016 4:10:40 AM