How Law Schools Confront Gender Bias in the Law

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This might just be a Florida Man thing, but according to a Florida Bar Association survey of women lawyers under the age of 36 (or in their first five years of practice) almost half could recount some instance of gender bias.

This is sad. But the future might be brighter. Law schools are trying to play a positive role in advancing women lawyers and dealing with prejudice and stereotypes.

Most law schools will have several organizations aimed at helping women find mentors and general support during school and later in their careers. At Columbia, for example, we have the Empowering Women of Color student group, the Columbia Law Women’s Association, and the Columbia Law Feminist Society, all of which are very active.

Moreover, many of the most active and popular student groups will host events aimed at women. For example, the Columbia Business Law Association, which has a huge membership, hosts a Women in Firms Panel and Reception. The Columbia Law Review hosts an annual Women’s Dinner. The Asian Pacific American Law Students Association also holds several events aimed at women during the year. And there are many more.

All of these events and groups are open to both men and women.

The less direct ways in which law schools help advance gender equality include having women in leadership positions. Here, women are very active as teaching assistants, in student groups, student senate, the school administration, and the faculty. The other ways include having speakers come to talk about professionalism and how to behave like a professional more generally. The examples of gender bias the Florida Bar Association survey uncovered strike me as profoundly unprofessional.

There are only so many things law schools can do now, but they’re trying. Hopefully women can feel supported and included at least during law school. What law schools do today could have a ripple effect in the future on the wider legal profession.

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