For the first time ever, women make up a slight majority of students enrolled at American Bar Association-accredited law schools, according to data released this week.
The ABA data shows 55,728 women are enrolled in law schools. Put another way: 50.3 percent of J.D. students nationwide are women.
It’s the highest percentage of women since the ABA began keeping track of gender and law school enrollment in 1963. Fifty-three years ago, 3.7 percent of law school students were women.
The number also continues a six-year trend of increasing percentages of women enrolled in law school, said Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization.
“It’s a milestone for the legal profession — not just legal education,” he said.
At the same time, McEntee added, “it’s one that have to be careful about over-celebrating, given the context in which they’re occurring.”
He pointed to a report he co-authored last month that concluded women are more likely to attend law schools that received lower U.S. News & World Report rankings, and carry worse job placement records.
On the “Law School Cafe” blog, his co-author Deborah Merritt, the law professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, wrote on Thursday that the new ABA figures suggest the gender gap in school ranking and job placement remains:
On average, the better ranked schools enroll a significantly smaller percentage of women students. The correlation remains when we look at schools’ placement outcomes. Men are significantly more likely than women to attend schools that place a large percentage of their graduates in full-time, long-term jobs requiring a law license. Women are more likely to attend schools with weak employment outcomes.
Jenny Waters, executive director at the National Association of Women Lawyers, said “law schools have been working on parity, with more women tenure-track professors and deans.”
“Close to one-third of law school deans are now women, and it makes a difference to have women in positions of leadership,” she said. “The idea, ‘You can be what you see’ applies to law school as well.”