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The data we're replacing had been gathered at Law Forums in 2004. But since I gathered that data, shifts in emphasis on LSAT score skewed the data further toward gender disparity each year. In fact, in 2008, the commonest refrain from admissions officers this year is "we need more women."  And a person or two has asked what has caused the imbalance.  It seems to me that the problem is the LSAT and its gender bias.  

What gender bias? 

I don't exactly know; but I see the results. In 2007:

  • 49% of all applicants identified themselves as female, and 51% as male. (Nearly a thousand declined to specify.)
  • Only 64% of all women were offered seats, but 69% of men were.
  • More women than men had GPAs above 3.25 -- both numerically and proportionally.  
    • 23516, or 57%, of all women, had GPAs of 3.25 or higher.  
    • 20970, or 49%, of all men, had GPAs of 3.25 or higher.  

So we have more women, with better grades, being offered fewer seats both numerically and proportionally than men. And why is this so?

Because for every LSAT score from 140 to 180, men have higher LSAT scores than women!   The men with high LSAT scores have low grades, of course; otherwise the results I just listed would be impossible.

The majority of high GPA/Low LSAT applicants are women who aren't being admitted, while the majority of low GPA/high LSAT applicants are men who are being offered seats.  And why?  Because US News counts LSAT score as 12.5% of a school's ranking, while it counts grades as only 10%.  

How to Fix the Problem

I can think of three ways to remedy the imbalance created by the system as it currently stands.

1. Figure out what's causing men to get higher LSAT scores than women and fix it.

I don't expect this to happen; first of all, LSAC is likely to say the difference isn't statistically significant. (I disagree, but that doesn't matter.) Second, it takes years to change LSAT format, years in which the gender imbalance will continue. Third, and most important, the LSAT is supposed to measure aptitude to be a lawyer, and thinking like a lawyer necessarily requires thinking like a man. More women in the system may change that, but first we have to admit the women.

2. Ignore the US News rankings and admit people who will create a well-balanced class.

Ha! To quote a famous rock group, "When Hell freezes over." All these schools that are (institutionally speaking) running around and accusing other schools of gaming the system are certainly gaming the system themselves; recent flaps about part-time programs mostly mean "They're gaming the system in a way that we can't." As long as applications and alumni giving are linked to US News ranking, the schools will continue to consider their US News ranking to be at least as important as their actual students.

3. Get US News and World Report to change the way it calculates the ranking.

US News has much more flexibility to change and ability to control the rankings than any law school.  The necessary change is minute; it only requires counting LSAT and GPA as 12.5% each, instead of placing more emphasis on LSAT score.

Feminist that I am, I am calling on USNews to end a system that rewards men at the expense of women.

If the rankings are intended to help applicants make even-handed and objective decisions, US News should work to assure that result when a flaw is brought to their attention. And if their purpose is only to keep the rankings changing to sell more magazines, the changes generated by this egalitarian approach will certainly keep the readers reading.

If you agree, send a note to Bob Morse, editor of the US News Rankings, telling him so.

I want to keep the focus on this serious issue, so I'm leaving this discussion as a reminder that we need to fix this problem. Click here to see the 2009 data (which was the most recent published in April 2011).

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