Diversity increases with law school deans, according to new AALS study

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The number of women and people of color in law school dean positions is growing, but those hired through search firms were mostly white men, according to a new study released by the Association of American Law Schools.

The American Law School Dean Study surveyed 197 deans of ABA-accredited law schools and 222 former deans who served between 2010 and 2020. It was also compiled by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, also known as the NORC.

According to the study, released Tuesday, women headed 41% of law schools in 2020, compared to 18% in 2005. Also, 31% of the law schools in 2020 had deans who were people of color or Hispanic, compared to 13% in 2005.

According to the study, 18% of the law school deans in 2020 identified as Black or African American, and 6% identified as Hispanic or Latino. The number of law school deans who identify as American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander was also increasing, in small amounts, according to the study.

Additionally, the number of deans who identified as two or more races was 5% in 2020, compared to less than 1% in 2005.

The study also looks at parent education as a proxy for socioeconomic status. A total of 55% of the deans reported that their parents had advanced degrees, compared to 14% of the U.S. general population age 25 and older.

A total of 62% of the deans surveyed reported that their candidacy was initiated by someone other than themselves, and 59% of the deans were selected through a process that involved a search firm. Among those who reported that a search firm was used for their current position, 68% were men, and 74% were white.

The study also asked respondents how COVID-19 and “America’s reckoning with racial injustice” has changed deanships. A total of 88% of the deans reported spending “a lot” of time on crisis management in 2020, compared to 11% in 2019. Additionally, 79% reported spending a lot of time on diversity, equity and inclusion in 2020, compared to 16% in 2019.

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