Faculty diversity impacts law review membership, study finds

Law schools with a diverse faculty are more likely to have law review members and leaders who are minorities or women, a new study suggests. The report, completed by The New York Law School Law Review, looks at female and minority representation among law review membership and leadership at ABA-accredited law schools. Membership on a school's law review is an indicator of future career success.

“Getting into law school is only half the battle — for better or worse, grades matter a lot and law review membership is one of the most prominent indicators of academic achievement,” said Dana Brodsky, one of four 3L editors who conducted the research. “Our survey shows a possible connection between the overall environment a school provides and the achievement of its women and minority students.”

The study looked at three pools — ABA-accredited law schools with the highest reported percentage of female faculty; law schools with the highest reported percentage of minority faculty; and the top 50 law schools as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

The study found that schools with a large female faculty had, on average, greater gender diversity among their student membership and leadership than law reviews at law schools ranked in the Top 50 — 52.2 percent compared to 44.3 percent.

They also had a higher rate of female law review Editor In Chiefs— 60 percent compared to just 33 percent at law reviews in the Top 50 sample. Only 13.3 percent, however, had an EIC who identified as a person of color.

Law reviews at schools with large minority faculty also had significantly higher percentages of female membership — 58.6 percent compared to 44.3 percent. In addition, 46.2 percent of those law reviews had a female EIC, compared to only 33 percent in the Top 50 sample. And 41.7 percent had an EIC who was a person of color.

Editors at The New York Law School Law Review said their hope is that their study will spark discussion for what factors drive or inhibit diversity on law reviews.

The study is an extension of an August 2010 report from Ms. JD, a nonprofit that helps women lawyers. That study had examined female membership and leadership on the law reviews at law schools ranked in the Top 50 by U.S. News & World Report.

Ms. JD found that, although the percentage of female students on those law reviews (44.3 percent) and in leadership positions (46.2 percent) was in line with the percentage of women awarded law degrees during the same time period (45.7 percent in 2008), the representation of women in the EIC position was “disproportionately low” at just 33 percent.

The New York Law School Law Review will continue its research with its 2011–12 survey, which is now under way and will include the general interest law review or journal at every ABA-accredited law school.

The New York Law School Law Review published its own “diversity profile” on its website. Over the past nine years, 89 percent of its editors in chief were women; women held 57 percent of leadership positions; and women authored 56 percent of the student scholarship. During the same period, its average female membership was 53 percent and 54 percent of the school’s J.D. graduates were women.