Heather Asher

Ms. JD Partners with NYU Law Review to Re-Launch its Annual Law Review Diversity Survey

Ms. JD is thrilled to announce that it has partnered with the New York University (NYU) Law Review to re-launch its annual law review diversity survey, conducted since 2010. The survey measures gender and racial diversity on the flagship law reviews or law journals of all American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools. Past reports can be found here, here, and here.

To celebrate this new partnership, Ms. JD and NYU Review will host a panel discussion on February 25, 2015 from 6-8 pm at the New York office of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a Ms. JD sponsor.  Event details and registration can be found here.

I recently discussed this new partnership and the importance of gender and racial diversity on law reviews with Julie Silverbrook, chair of Ms. JD's Academic Committee and member of the Ms. JD Board of Directors, and Mikayla Consalvo, Editor-in-Chief of the NYU Law Review.

Why is Ms. JD particularly excited to partner with NYU Law Review for our annual law review diversity survey?

Julie:

For the last four years, Ms. JD has conducted its annual law review diversity survey measuring gender and racial diversity on the flagship law reviews or law journals of all American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools. Our previous survey results were widely reported and recognized throughout the legal community by the National Law Journal, ABA President Laurel Bellows, the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession Committee, the National Jurist, JD Journal, TaxProf Blog, and Thomson Reuters, among others.

We are thrilled to work with NYU Law Review on the survey moving forward. NYU Law Review leads the field in its commitment to racial and gender diversity in both law review membership and publication. The staff has already brought fresh ideas to the table, which will undoubtedly improve our survey results and data analysis. The NYU Law Review’s print and online publications also reach a large audience – both within and outside the legal academy. This partnership will allow us to reach that audience and foster a discussion across all ABA accredited law schools about issues of racial and gender diversity on law reviews specifically, and in other essential law school experiences more generally.

It’s important to note that this is not an uncontroversial topic. We hope the data we collect and analyze in our revamped law review diversity survey will play a key role in shaping future debates about the appropriate way to ensure greater racial and gender diversity on law reviews and law journals.

Why is NYU interested in partnering with Ms. JD on the law review diversity survey and publishing the results in your online publication?

Mikayla:

Our law review was thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with Ms. JD on the diversity survey and publish the results in our online publication. We know firsthand what a useful tool the survey can be for journals. Long before this partnership was established, I had bookmarked the latest survey and referenced it many times. At NYU, we have historically considered diversity of backgrounds in our selection of members, and the survey results are a reminder of why that is so important: Although most schools have made great strides in their commitment to diversity, nearly all (including NYU) have more work to do. We are now proud to carry the torch and do what we can to ensure this information is available and easily accessible to all journals, and their law school bodies more generally. And our online publication, where we will be able to most quickly and widely make the results available, will be the perfect space to publish them.

Why is law review diversity important?

Julie:

I’d like to begin by answering the larger question of the importance of law review membership. Employers – particularly large law firms, judges selecting law clerks, and hiring committees at law schools – look for applicants who have served on a law school’s flagship law review or a specialty law journal. Employers know that students who served on law review – particularly in an editorial board position – have developed in-depth legal research and writing skills that will serve them well as attorneys, law clerks, or academics.

Many law schools only accept student notes for publication from their members. As Nancy Leong has discussed, unless women or people of color are invited to join the law review, then (with some exceptions) they will not have their students notes published. The result is that less women and people of color will have a credential that “eases the path to becoming a professor, or a Supreme Court clerk, or a federal judge, or a partner at a prestigious law firm.” What Leong has described is a fundamental pipeline issue. If women and people of color are not on law review, then they will lack what many view as a fundamental credential for reaching the top of the legal profession.

Gender and racial diversity on law reviews can also impact article selection – though the data is less clear on this point (this is something we hope to measure in our survey moving forward). Some scholars argue that when there is greater gender and racial diversity on a law review or law journal, the students are more likely to select a more diverse range of topics from a more diverse group of scholars. As I mentioned before, more data is needed to confirm this hypothesis. We hope to collect that data and analyze it in the years to come.

Mikayla:

There are a number of reasons why law review diversity is important. First, like with almost any organization, a law review community will thrive when it is comprised of people from different backgrounds who have different perspectives. NYU Law Review’s community is much more vibrant because we have students who are not just diverse in the traditional categories of race, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexuality, but who also have varying career goals, opposing ideologies, a wide range of education and career backgrounds, and differing priorities in law school. This brings to our attention and thus allows us to publish more pieces that are reflective of a wide range of experiences.

Second, diversity plays a huge role in making us better at what is ultimately our most important job: selecting impactful scholarship. Having editors in our articles selection committees with different backgrounds means we are much more likely to pay attention to underrepresented areas of law. This leads us to publish more relevant and hopefully influential pieces.

In a related vein, law reviews are very unique in that they are comprised of students and yet play a big role in determining the tenure status of professors through articles selection. Having an article placed in a law review can be the difference in the career of a professor (or aspiring professor) and so some of the choices we make will have a direct effect on which voices in legal academia are heard. Having members with different views on what makes a voice—at least as it is expressed in a particular article—worth listening to is crucial to making sure we are fulfilling this role as well as possible.

What we can we learn from the law review diversity survey?

Julie:

Our past surveys have been data focused. Moving forward, and working with NYU Law Review, we hope to engage in more data analysis. In our prior surveys, we focused on the following:

  1. Male to female gender ratio of staff on flagship law review or law journal
  2. Racial composition of staff on flagship law review or law journal
  3. Male to female gender ratio on editorial board of flagship law review or law journal
  4. Racial composition of editorial board on flagship law review or law journal
  5. Whether or not a flagship law review or law journal collects demographic data from its student (beyond the data we are asking them to collect for our annual survey)
  6. Method of selecting members of flagship law review or law journal.
  7. Method of selecting editorial board of flagship law review or law journal
  8. Whether “diversity” is explicitly mentioned in the mission statement of the flagship law review or law journal.
  9. Structures and methods for ensuring diversity on flagship law review or law journal.
  10. Number of faculty advisors for flagship law review or law journal
  11. Gender and racial composition of law review faculty advisors

Mikayla:

The law review diversity study is a great tool for gauging the current status of where law review diversity is at now, and what trends we can find from the data that is collected. For example, the 2012-2013 survey results showed that law reviews outside the top fifty law schools reported a higher average percentage of women as members than those in the top fifty, and it revealed that this discrepancy was not caused by a difference in enrollment of women in the entire J.D. class.

Knowing that, top law schools can ask what is happening at lower ranked schools that is leading them to achieve greater parity. Is a potential cause related to the selection method each school employs, for example, an emphasis on one aspect of an application over another that leads to a gender discrepancy? Is it more attributable to recruitment efforts, and if so, should we consider partnerships with other student groups like NYU’s Law Women to make sure we are effectively reaching first-year women? Or are there steps we can take to make the journal experience itself richer and more appealing to women? As this example shows, the survey results give the opportunity for journals to pause and reflect on what they can do to enrich the diversity of their communities.

What kind of issues hinder diversity within law review leadership?

Julie:

This is a difficult question to answer – in part, because the issues vary depending on the school. Furthermore, the data we’ve collected in the last several years only suggests and does not definitively identify the core issues. Anecdotally, we’ve heard a number of hypotheses from law students and faculty members, including:

  1. A lack of mentorship opportunities or perceived lack of mentorship opportunities between students and faculty members who would encourage that student to participate in law review and/or submit a note for publication.
  2. The perception that a flagship law review’s editorial board is not committed to gender and racial diversity.
  3. The perception that the editorial board of a flagship law review is less open to publishing scholarship submitted by women or persons of color.
  4. The perception that women are more able to gain leadership positions on a specialty law journal focusing on women and gender than they are on a flagship law review or law journal

This is not an exhaustive list of possible issues, and we are hoping to learn more from the survey data we collect in the next year.

Mikayla:

I think the most significant issue that hinders diversity within law review leadership is a lack of diversity of membership in general. If a journal has less people of color or women in its membership than is, say, representative of the law school, then of course it is less likely to have an executive board that reflects the law school’s diversity on those fronts. Having a journal whose membership at large is diverse—whether by, for instance, ensuring all first-year students are reached through recruiting efforts or that the selection process itself is not skewed highly in favor of certain groups—is the first step towards diversity in law review leadership.

What does NYU do to ensure racial and gender diversity both in law review membership and publication?

Mikayla:

NYU has traditionally been very invested in diversity both in terms of membership and our scholarship. In determining membership, of the fifty staff editors we bring onto the journal each year, we select approximately one-third based on the strength of their personal statements and resumes in conjunction with grades and writing competition scores. This allows us to really pay attention to getting members with unique backgrounds and perspectives. In addition, we try to make the journal community inviting to everyone so that no one feels discouraged from joining. We have a Diversity Committee, which, in addition to overseeing the selection of members, holds regular events where editors can get to know one another and have a space to discuss any concerns or thoughts they have.

We also bring our commitment to diversity to our selection of scholarship. Our Articles Department values, for example, list as one of the criteria for selecting articles a piece’s potential to “shape the academy” by, for instance, being written by an author who has not yet been tenured or is covering an underrepresented area of law. In every committee read, where we vote on whether to accept an article, our Senior Articles Editor will ask how the piece advances this value; it is considered right alongside and weighed with the novelty, citation potential, and overall quality of the piece.

We are so excited to be continuing this commitment by publishing the diversity survey results on our online publication.

Based on past surveys, how have you found diversity within law school faculty to impact law review diversity?

Julie:

Past surveys have suggested that there may be some connection between the racial and gender makeup of a law school’s faculty and the racial and gender composition of its flagship law review or law journal. We hope to further explore that connection in our next survey.

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