Women face ‘glass ceiling’ in law review leadership

Women are often the focus of numerous statistical reports in the legal profession. Making partner, diversity and work-life balance take many of the top headlines. But a recent report by Ms. JD looks at women’s experiences in law school. What they find: women lag in law review leadership.

Results show that while overall percentages of women members of law journals and women in leadership positions correlates strongly to the number of women awarded law degrees during the same time period, the number of women editors-in-chief is low.

Ms. JD, a non-profit organization that seeks to advance women in the legal profession, surveyed general interest law review staffs at the top 50 law schools, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. The organization looked at the 2008 and 2009 academic years.

The numbers:

Women members of law journals = 44.3 percent

Women in leadership positions = 46.2 percent

Women awarded law degrees during same time period = 45.7 percent in 2008

Women editors-in-chief = 33 percent

“There is obviously some lingering glass ceiling when it comes to the highly coveted editor-in-chief position,” said Jessie Kornberg, Ms. JD’s executive director, to The National Law Journal. “There is an adequate pipeline of women on law review staff to achieve better parity here. Some other force is at work.”

The report states that a school appearing in the top or bottom half of the U.S. News ranking had no significant impact on the numbers.

“We hope this gender diversity data will contribute to a broader dialogue about women’s experiences in law school and the extent to which the intersection of gender and the law school experience may contribute to the disparities evident in later stages of women’s legal careers,” the report stated.

The study focused on women in membership and leadership positions in law reviews because “these activities are seen as valuable in obtaining legal jobs, specifically prestigious federal judicial clerkships and academic appointments.”

The data was self-reported by law school students, law review support staff and recent law school alumni who responded to Ms. JD’s solicitation for data.

This is the first Ms. JD survey of law review staffs, and the group plans to expand the survey during the new academic year to look at the representation of minority women and examine how staff and leadership positions are selected.