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Study: Fewer Women Rank High in Law Because Fewer Attend Top-Tier Schools

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 05, 2016 11:02 AM

Women have achieved equality in law school but not in the profession because fewer are admitted to top-tier schools, according to a new report.

The study says that women earn as many law degrees as men but less than 20 percent of those women become partners at law firms. Women are also underrepresented among judges, corporate counsel, law school deans and professors, according to the authors. Deborah Jones Merritt and Kyle McEntee, law professors at Ohio State, claim that law school rankings and job placements may be partly to blame.

Leaky Statistics

"Many observers worry about a leaky pipeline for women attorneys once they leave law school," the professors report. They identified "three early leaks that affect the representation of women in the legal profession."

In addition to fewer women applying to law schools, Merritt and McEntee say, women are less likely to be admitted to law school than men. For the incoming class of 2015, the authors report, law schools admitted 79.5% of their male applicants and 75.8% of the female ones -- "a leak" of almost four percentage points.

However, the report continues, the biggest leak between law school and the legal profession results from the women's' law school rankings and job placements. The authors report that in 2015 women made up 53% of the students attending the bottom quarter of law schools and only 46% of the students at the top 50 law schools. Top-tier schools have better job placement numbers, according to Merritt and McEntee.

"Women occupy almost half of all law school seats, but they are significantly less likely than men to attend the schools that send a high percentage of graduates into the profession," they said. "Even if graduates of the latter schools ultimately enter the profession, they start at a disadvantage."

LSAT v. GPA

Merritt and McEntee say law schools focus admissions on candidates with the highest possible LSAT scores, and women on average score lower than men on the test's multiple-choice questions. Although women tend to have higher college GPAs than men, many schools are also awarding scholarships based on LSAT scores.

"So, as schools chase LSAT scores to polish their U.S. News rank, women get the short end of the stick," Merritt and McEntee said.

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