Fewer Women Seeking Law Degrees:
An interesting story from The National Law Journal:
  Since 2002, the percentage of women in law schools has declined each year, according to the American Bar Association (ABA). Five years ago, women made up 49% of law school enrollment. This year, 46.9% of law school students are women. And while the number of applicants overall has dropped in the past two years, the percentage decline in the number of women has been greater.
  Although observers say a variety of factors contributed to the dip, the prevailing message is that fewer women want a lawyer's life.
  The decrease comes at a time when the earning power of women in their 20s is outpacing men of the same age, at least in several major U.S. metropolitan areas. According to research from Department of Sociology at Queens College in New York, women in their 20s in Dallas, for example, earn 20% more than men of the same age. In New York, they earn 17% more.
Thanks to Jennifer Collins for the link.
Brian K (mail):
Just out of curiosity, what are the employment statistics of women at big law firms and in the government? Do the trends there mirror the overall trends at law school (perhaps offset one way or the other by a number of years)?
10.1.2007 10:50pm
Stating the Obvious (mail):
That can't be right. I watch Boston Legal...
10.1.2007 11:11pm
lawyer (mail):
Brian K,

Women account for 30% of practicing attorneys, but relative to their participation they are slightly over-represented in government and corporate in-house jobs and slightly under-represented in private practice.
10.1.2007 11:27pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
I blame Ann Althouse.

10.1.2007 11:30pm
Brian K (mail):
Thanks lawyer
10.1.2007 11:31pm
CT, seriously?
10.1.2007 11:52pm
theobromophile (www):
Considering that more women than men go to college, and more women than men graduate, it is somewhat surprising that we've yet to achieve gender parity.

The article certainly conflated raw numbers and percentages, as well as numbers/percentages of those applying, being admitted to, and attending law schools.

My guess is that women who would have applied to law school are now going for med school, grad school, business school, accounting/finance, or engineering. They no longer see law school as one of the few routes open to women who want professional careers.

Legally Blonde came out in 2001. Maybe Elle Woods is to blame.... ;)
10.1.2007 11:56pm
More proof that women are smarter than men? :)
10.2.2007 12:00am
MikeC&F (mail):
Damn, GV, you stole my thunder. (I was literally about to post that!) But, as if we needed further proof, there is it...
10.2.2007 1:22am
Informant (mail):
The Big Law hiring committee are going to be soiling themselves in terror at this news. They'll have to start hiring people to carry the female associates around on palanquins if they want to keep the numbers up.
10.2.2007 2:35am
fhui (mail):
10.2.2007 5:14am
skyywise (mail):
Note your own 1Ls at GW, Orin; I believe the number is 42% female.
10.2.2007 10:05am
It is really hard to be a woman attorney. Male lawyers, as a group, tend to be jerks. Most of the women lawyers want a businessman or doctor.

Either the women take a job at the friend of the court or the public defenders (or legal aid) where they don't run into any nice/successful guys to marry---or they take a business law job where they get to meet the businessmen and doctors but are way too busy to date and marry them.

An MBA and corporate job makes one heck of a lot more sense. There they can meet the men and still have time to date them.
10.2.2007 10:23am
As a female lawyer, I find that one of the more disagreeable aspects of the profession is other female lawyers. Not all by any means, but there's a certain subset practicing "Mean Girls" clique warfare. This pisses me off more than anything the men do.

But I think the notion of other options is the right one. Law is still an attractive career, but it's not as attractive as it used to be relative to the other choices. Women may just have noticed this first.

The current trend may also be a correction from a blip -- there was a surge in law school applications when the dotcom boom ended, but that has worked its way through the system by now.
10.2.2007 11:02am
The passage quoted may itself contain an economics-based explanation for the phenomenon. If women currently can make more money than men without a law degree, then the opportunity cost in lost wages is higher for them if they go to law school.
10.2.2007 1:50pm
Kurt9 (mail):
I think law, by its very nature, is very combative than most other professions. Practicing law, particularly litigation, requires one to be unusually aggressive and somewhat nasty compared to other professions. In other words, you have to be somewhat of a jerk in order to be a successful lawyer, especially if you want to be a litigator.

Many intelligent women (and men, for that matter) are put off by these aspects of the profession and, thus, have no desire to enter the field. Such people would rather enter science, medicine, or business.

Also, being a top-notch lawyer (BigLaw) requires one to work longer hours than probably any other profession. This can be offputting as well.
10.2.2007 2:43pm
Actually, I don't think being a lawyer requires BEING a jerk. It requires knowing how to act like a jerk in certain circumstances. In my opinion, it's also important to know when and how to turn the jerk impulse off.

Some would-be lawyers never master the first part, and some never master the second part. Indeed, some never realize that there is a second part.
10.2.2007 3:13pm
As an aside, has anyone ever run into a doctor who behaved like a big jerk? How about a businessperson? I doubt that lawyers have a monopoly.

And women can be just as jerky as men. Occasionally more so.
10.2.2007 3:15pm
Kurt9 (mail):
Yes, M.D.s can be pricks as well. In fact, I dislike doctors more than I dislike lawyers for reasons which are too long to explain here.

Yeah, women can be as jerky as men. However, I think being a jerk is less appealing to most women than it is to most men.
10.2.2007 3:37pm
Houston Lawyer:
As AC pointed out, men have no monopoly on being jerks and this applies with spades to lawyers. I would think that there are few labels that a woman could apply to herself that would reduce her dating opportunities more than saying she is an attorney. Many female lawyers have a chip on their shoulder that makes them act worse than a man in similar circumstances.

If a woman joins a large law firm, she will have to choose whether to postpone child bearing until after she makes partner or to postpone partnership track. This is an intolerable situation for many women and they often vote with their feet.
10.2.2007 4:14pm
Houston Lawyer may have hit on something that explains the jerkiness of some of the women I've run across. They are in a TREMENDOUS hurry about their careers. Men and women (like me) who don't really want children can afford to take a longer view.
10.2.2007 4:56pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
Law is a bad way to make a lot of money -- and a legal degree an inferior good, in a sense. If the earning power of women is outpacing that of men, then it makes sense women are leaving the profession.
10.2.2007 5:32pm
Roach (mail) (www):
Those earnings numbers are misleading; they undoubtedly involve lots of white collar women compared to blue collar men, who must compete with hordes of cheap immigrant labor.
10.2.2007 6:31pm
Truth Seeker:
Don't admissions committees completely control the numbers of males/females adlitted? So they decide if they want 99% males or 99% females, or 50/50, right? There must be more than enough qualified applicants for every spot. Why do these numbers mean anything about women? They just tell us what the committees are doing, right?
10.2.2007 11:02pm
theobromophile (www):
It does seem as if quite a few female lawyers have chips on their shoulders. It really fascinates me - most of the female doctors and engineers I know are really wonderful people. AC makes a good point about how law forces women to choose between childbearing and career in a way that most other professions don't, but such an issue is certainly true of tenure-track professors, who don't seem to be nearly as on-edge as women lawyers.

There must be more than enough qualified applicants for every spot. Why do these numbers mean anything about women? They just tell us what the committees are doing, right?

Hence my complaint about the bad data reporting. If fewer women are applying, the pipeline isn't there. You can have a cascade effect, where Yale, Harvard, and Stanford, in an effort to achieve gender parity without a corresponding pipeline of women, take up a disproportionate share of the top women. That leaves each successive school to take slightly less-qualified women. The effect is slight, but, by the time you get down to the lowest-ranked schools, the options are severe gender imbalance or taking less qualified (potentially unqualified) women. The other option is for schools to accept women in proportion to the pipeline and deal with a gender imbalance.

I believe that 65% of the 1Ls at my school are male.
10.3.2007 1:28am
LongSufferingRaidersFan (mail):
The reason women stay at firms in lesser numbers than men is because women can marry a guy who makes more money than them and/or get pregnant. No person, male or female, in their right mind would continue working at a lawfirm beyond a year or so if they had any choices. The difference is, women have choices....
10.3.2007 3:56pm
Don't forget business formation... droves of women have been starting small businesses over the past few decades. Some of these may be law practices, for all I know. There are a lot of choices between big firm life and bringing up baby.

Don't know what this has to do with APPLICATIONS to law schools, though.
10.3.2007 4:28pm
theobromophile (www):

Don't know what this has to do with APPLICATIONS to law schools, though.

Therein lies the rub. I find it difficult to believe that smart, ambitious 21-year-old college juniors would not take the LSAT because of big firm life, considering that a law degree is (to outsiders, at least) seen as very useful and flexible.
10.3.2007 9:52pm
southerngal (mail):
Well I just wrote something really long that disappered. Bottom line is that I think women lawyers from the 50%+ female classes are telling younger women not to apply, b/c law school isn't worth the money unless you are super sure you will like doing what on many days is boring, repetitive, and technical. Other days its a huge rush, or at least interesting, but those can be few and far between.
10.4.2007 3:39pm