Law Schools

Researchers Who Studied Newly Hired Law Profs Found 52 Liberals, 8 Conservatives


Researchers studying the political leanings of newly hired law school tenure-track professors say their findings may point to the need to increase the intellectual diversity of law schools.

The study by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law found that 52 out of 149 new law professors hired during a three-year-period could be clearly identified as liberal, while only eight were clearly conservative, the National Law Journal reports.

The researchers, Ph.D. candidate Douglas Spencer and law student James Phillips, wrote that the “extreme discrepancy” in liberals versus conservatives “indicates either unequal hiring patterns or environments less conducive to openness and debate in the law school setting.”

They note that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan was widely praised for hiring conservative faculty members when she was dean of Harvard Law School. But out of 32 tenure or tenure-track hires, only three were openly conservative, they said.

The researchers studied a sample of 149 entry-level tenure-track hires at law schools across the country during 2005, 2007 and 2009. They devised a measure of ideology based on political donations, Facebook profiles, work experience, publications and the political party of the president who appointed judges for whom the professors clerked, the NLJ story says.

Spencer and Phillips weren’t able to determine whether 60 percent of the new hires were clearly liberal or conservative. For the rest, they found that 52 of the new profs were liberal, and eight were conservative.

They also checked to see if more prestigious schools were hiring more liberals than lower-tier schools, and found there was no statistical difference.

TaxProf Blog also notes the study.

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