Paul L. Caron

Saturday, October 27, 2018

'Your Law School Really Sucks At Hiring, And That's Why Your Faculty Lacks Diversity'

LawProfBlawg, Your Law School’s Predominantly White Male Faculty Profile Pics:

Your law school really sucks at hiring, and that's why your faculty lacks diversity.

It’s that season when eager entry-level prospective law professors converge on Washington, D.C., to meet with faculty hiring committees who are also converging on D.C.  ...

The goal?  Hire a candidate who looks and acts exactly like them.

Just kidding.  But that is often what happens.  Because law professors tend to suck at hiring. Don’t get me wrong, you deserved to be hired.  But most of us who don’t fit a particular pattern or mold often feel like we were some sort of accident or fluke.  The reason is that law schools lack diversity. ...

I’ve looked at over 50 law school websites this weekend.  And, at least among the tenured and tenure-track faculty, we’re all very much white and male.  Some schools appear to have NO minority tenure or tenure-track faculty members.  The bulk of us come from the same few schools.  That doesn’t sound like a diverse faculty so much as it sounds like a club.

The problem is partly because law schools have some common misperceptions about diversity.  What I say here applies to any diversity, whether it be race, gender, socioeconomic status, or political viewpoint.  Diversity enhances the intellectual life of a school.  It is necessary for student success and intellectual achievement.  And, the shortcuts law faculty members tend to take in hiring assure diversity isn’t there.

Here’s a checklist.  How many apply to your school?

  • Your school perpetuates the myth that the “qualified” minority candidates get hired at better schools ...
  • Your school sometimes uses the term “quality” as a proxy for bias ... 
  • Your school uses “quality” as an even more insidious signal ...
  • Your school perpetuates the myth that there just aren’t enough minority candidates ...
  • Your school doesn’t apply the same rules for a minority candidate that it does for candidates who are the spittin’ image of most of you ...
  • Your faculty hiring committee doesn’t know what the hell it is doing ...
  • You have that one faculty member (or perhaps several) ...
  • Your school seeks to assure that only Harvard and Yale alums are fully employed ...
  • Your hiring committee is like Groundhog Day ...

Legal Education | Permalink


Faculty self-replication is a problem, but it has many dimensions. One dimension: "The goal? Hire a candidate who looks and thinks exactly like them." If faculty were willing to hire faculty members who are racial minorities AND conservatives (or libertarians), faculty would expand their options...

Posted by: TS | Oct 27, 2018 9:00:41 AM

Last time I checked whites, males, liberals and moderates weren't all identical clones. Professors are hired for their scholarship, not for their political donations, complexions, or number of X chromosomes.

If your definition of "diversity" is so superficial that it only encompasses race, sex, and vague ideological leanings, that's your problem, not law schools.

Posted by: What's diversity? | Oct 27, 2018 4:52:57 PM

All this is Well-intentioned, but as long as people define themselves by physical characteristics, it's going to get worse rather than better

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Oct 28, 2018 5:18:59 AM

The lack of diversity in law schools mirrors what is happening in the corporate world. According to Forbes magazine, there are only " three black CEOs in the Fortune 500" and corporate America is "seeing decreases and the lowest concentration of black leaders since 2002." If you look at the senior management ranks of the Fortune 500, there is only a 1.5% representation of African-American women." In the January 30, 2018 issue of the Harvard Business Review, the authors note that if you define diversity along multiple dimensions, it can be argued that diversity drives innovation. To be sure, there are differences between legal education and the corporate world. The article notes that diversity by itself is not enough. Diversity cannot thrive in hostile work environments, non-inclusive cultures, and environments where diverse ideas are routinely stifled.

Posted by: Shawn Boyne | Oct 28, 2018 7:06:12 AM

The censors will themselves be censored.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 28, 2018 10:45:24 AM

Diversity is a topic that people talk endlessly about but very few people truly care about.

When picking a school, law students care about their own employment, debt at graduation, prestige of degree and location, roughly in that order. Why would a school's "diversity" even factor in against those monumental considerations.

Faculty and Administrators may care a bit more, but again, not at the expense of prestige and financial security.

I think a lot of people like the idea of diversity, but it is sort of an icing on the cake consideration.

Posted by: JM | Oct 28, 2018 11:13:10 AM

The ethnic breakdown of the faculty is of no interest unless you have some indication people are being systematically shafted. Monovox is a problem (Of course, we're assured by incumbent faculty that is no problem at all). Here are some suggestions:

1. Let people walk in off the street and take the bar exam.

2. Decree, by law, a change in the curriculum and admissions standards at state law schools:

a. Preparation for admissions is not a BA degree, but a pair of certificates which can be completed in 18 months, one in arts-and-sciences (mostly history and philosophy), and one in business.

b. The bog standard degree is a 48 credit course which can be completed in a calendar year.

c. Offered as well are certificate programs which range in length from 3 weeks to 48 weeks on specialties within law.

d. Student loans to attend law school are subject to anti-usury laws, but unsubsidized. Lenders are offered only the minimum feasible enhancements to creditor protection in re bankruptcy proceedings.

3. State law schools are audited for their cost effectiveness and bar passage rates, and subject to severe downsizing and closure. A global reduction in enrollment and staffing of about 1/3 would be a satisfactory start.

Posted by: Art Deco | Oct 28, 2018 11:40:05 AM