There is widespread consensus that the legal profession stands at an important inflection point. Traditional models of professional organization, practice, and education are under increasing pressure to adapt to important changes in the environments in which lawyers work. At the same time, these same forces make the profession’s commitment to its traditional ideals of equality and the rule of law more relevant and important than ever.
The current status of women in the legal profession mirrors this complex duality. On the one hand, the number of women entering the profession has increased dramatically in recent decades, and women lawyers can now be found in leadership positions in virtually every major legal institution in the country, including three female justices on the United States Supreme Court. And yet, the percentage of women in these top positions remains far below their representation in the profession, even when adjusted for the fact that women did not begin to enter legal practice in significant numbers until the 1970s. To make matters worse, even women who have achieved important career success appear to be leaving their prestigious positions—and the profession as a whole—in alarming numbers.
It is against this background that the Center offers this Report on The Women and Men of Harvard Law School. The Preliminary Report presents the results of the Harvard Law School Career Study (HLSCS), conducted by the school’s Center on the Legal Profession (CLP). Begun with a generous grant from a visionary group of women alumnae in connection with the 55th celebration of the graduation of the school’s first female students in 1953, the study seeks to deepen the understanding of the career choices made by HLS graduates by providing for the first time systematic empirical information about the career trajectories of graduates from different points in the school’s history. In this Preliminary Report, we offer a first look at the Study’s findings about the salient similarities and differences between the careers of the school’s female and male graduates.
The Women and Men of Harvard Law School
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