Shifting Law School Faculty Demographics

By Robert Kuehn, Washington University School of Law

In 1980, one-third of law students and only 14% of all law teachers were female, and a mere 9% of students and 4% of faculty were identified as non-white. Today, law faculties are more diverse by gender and race/ethnicity. Yet, the demographics of faculty subgroups diverge widely and, importantly, faculty remain less diverse than their students.  

Focusing principally on law clinic and field placement teachers (full time, excluding fellows), over two-thirds identified as female (cis or trans) in the latest 2019-20 Center for the Study of Applied Legal Education (CSALE) survey. The graph below reflects a trend of increasingly female clinical faculty beginning in the late 1980s/early 1990s and continuing through all five tri-annual CSALE surveys:[1]

Newer clinical teachers are even more predominantly female ─ 73% of those teaching three years or less are female. Within clinical teaching areas, those who primarily teach field placement courses are more predominantly female than those who primarily teach in a law clinic — 82% of field placement teachers are female compared to 65% of clinic teachers.

By comparison, 47% of all full-time law teachers were identified as female in 2020 law school ABA annual reports, an increase from 40% in 2011, 32.5% in 2000, and 24% in 1990. However, ABA results include the overwhelmingly female clinical and legal research and writing faculties. If clinical (67% female) and legal writing (70% female) faculty are removed from the 2020 ABA totals, women constitute fewer than 38% of full-time non-clinical/non-legal writing faculty, as illustrated below.[2] In contrast, 54% of J.D. students in 2020-21 were female, compared to 47% in 2010, 48% in 2000, 43% in 1990, and 34% in 1980.

Faculty have increased in racial and ethnic diversity since 1980. The percentages of full-time clinical teachers by race/ethnicity are shown in the table below. Surveys indicate steady, but slow, growth in the percentage of full-time non-white clinical teachers (excluding fellows) over the last four decades.

Clinical Faculty Race/EthnicitySALT 1980[3]SALT 1986AALS 1998[4]CSALE 2007CSALE 2010CSALE 2013CSALE 2016CSALE 2019
Other/2 or More Races<1%1%1%3%3%3%

Among newer clinical teachers of three years or less, the percentage of white teachers was slightly lower at 76%. Within clinical teaching, 77% of primarily law clinic instructors and 83% of primarily field placement teachers are white.

In the 2020 annual reports, 21% of full-time law faculty were identified by their schools as “minority,” an increase from approximately 17% in 2011, 14% in 2000, and 10% in 1990. The most recent ALWD/LWR survey identified 13% of legal research and writing faculty as non-white, multiracial or other, compared to 12% reported non-Caucasian in its 2010 survey.  

Similar to gender, law school faculty are less racially/ethnically diverse than their students: 34% of students were identified in 2020 annual reports as minority, an increase from 24% in 2010, 21% in 2000, 14% in 1990, and 9% in 1980.

 Available surveys and reports do not include recent information on the age of law faculty. There has been no change, however, over the five CSALE surveys since 2007 in the median number of years of prior practice by those teaching full time in a law clinic or field placement course, remaining approximately eight years. Excluding those hired into temporary fellow positions, similarly across CSALE surveys the median number of years of prior practice experience among newer faculty teaching three years or less in a law clinic or field placement course has been eight years.

In sum, while the diversity of law school faculty has been increasing over the past four decades, it still lags behind the gender and racial/ethnic diversity among students. And even though schools are hiring increasingly more female faculty, women continue to be disproportionately hired into traditionally lower status/lower paying clinical and legal writing positions.[5] There may be no easy fix to these issues, but the first step towards addressing them is to be aware of the numbers.

[1] “SALT” percentages are from Richard H. Chused, Hiring and Retention of Minorities and Women on American Law School Faculties, 137 U. Pa. L. Rev. 537, 556-57 (1988) (also reporting 14% of all law teachers as female and 5% as non-white in 1980). “Angel” percentages are from Marina Angel, The Glass Ceiling for Women in Legal Education: Contract Positions and the Death of Tenure, 50 J. Legal Educ. 1, 4 (2000).

[2] The 2020 ABA annual reports identified 4,399 female and 4,986 male full-time faculty (5 reported as “other”). Removing 1,157 female clinical teachers (67% of the 1,727 full-time clinical faculty reported by the 95% of schools that participated in the CSALE survey) and 649 female legal research and writing teachers (70% of the 927 full-time LRW faculty at the 169 of 203 ABA schools that participated in the 2019-20 ALWD/LWI Legal Writing Survey) results in 2,593 full-time female non-clinical/non-legal writing faculty. Further removing 848 male faculty identified in the CSALE and ALWD/LWI surveys results in 38.5% full-time non-clinical/non-legal writing female faculty. If the missing 5% of schools in the CSALE survey and 17% in the ALWD/LWI survey are accounted for, 37% of 2020 full-time non-clinical/non-legal writing faculty were female.  

[3] The 1980 and 1986 SALT surveys excluded faculty from minority-operated schools and, therefore, likely underrepresented non-white faculty.

[4] “AALS” percentages are from an AALS Clinical Section database reported in Jon C. Dubin, Faculty Diversity as a Clinical Legal Education Imperative, 51 Hastings L.J. 445, 448-49 (2000). [1] Robert R. Kuehn, The Disparate Treatment of Clinical Law Faculty (2021),

[5] Robert R. Kuehn, The Disparate Treatment of Clinical Law Faculty (2021),

Implementation of the ABA’s New Experiential Training Requirement: More Whimper Than Bang

By: Robert Kuehn, Washington University School of Law

When the ABA adopted a new experiential training requirement in 2014, there was hope it would spur law schools to significantly change the way they prepared students for legal practice. The new six-credit requirement in ABA Standard 303(a)(3) was less than the fifteen credits proposed by some educators and did not include a mandate for a law clinic or externship experience. Nonetheless, the six credits were an improvement over the ABA’s previous “substantial instruction” in professional skills requirement.[1] But data from the initial implementation of the new experiential requirement suggest its effect has been more of a whimper than the bang some hoped for, with little evidence it has spurred legal education to enhance the ability of students to get hands-on training in professional skills.

            Law schools are required to report annually to the ABA on the number of seats simply “available” to students in law clinic and simulation courses and the number of field placement/externship positions actually “filled.”[2] Data from the first two years of the new six-credit requirement in 2019 and 2020 show no increase in the positions available to students in clinics or simulations and even a decrease in actual enrollment in field placement courses, when normalized to address fluctuations in nationwide law school enrollment. While some law schools have made important changes to their curriculum, the graph below indicates that, on average, schools have not reported positive changes in law clinic, field placement, or simulation data since the ABA’s adoption of the new experiential standard in 2014. The number of clinic seats available per J.D. student in 2014 was 0.27 and still only 0.28 in 2020; field placements decreased from 0.26 in 2014 to 0.24 in 2020; and seats available in simulations likewise decreased over the six-year period from 1.22 to 1.12 per student.

  Source: ABA 509 Required Disclosures at

            The New York Court of Appeals followed the ABA in 2015 with its own new skills competency standard for bar candidates, proclaiming that “the goal of ensuring effective, ethical and responsible legal services in New York requires more than what the new ABA Standards provide.”[3] Commentators on the proposed New York standard argued it simply mirrored the ABA’s requirement, with some additional paperwork, and would not improve the skills training of students. The graph below shows that the New York competency standard, indeed, does not appear to have spurred New York’s law schools to noticeably enhance their professional skills training of students or to provide more training than schools in states following only the ABA requirement. Although students at New York schools were offered more opportunities to enroll in simulation courses lacking the supervised experience of handling the complexities of real-life clients, opportunities to participate in a law clinic were unchanged and field placements decreased.

Source: ABA 509 Required Disclosures for 15 New York law schools

            Data from the recent Center for the Study of Applied Legal Education (CSALE) 2019-20 Survey of Applied Legal Education of 95% of law schools also show little measurable effect from the new experiential training standard.[4] Schools reported no increase in the median number of law clinic courses offered to their students since the prior 2016-17 survey and no increase in the percentage of students that graduate with a law clinic experience. Similarly, there was no reported increase in the percentage of students that graduate with an externship experience, with student demand for externship courses in 2019-20 up slightly from the last survey yet significantly less than externship demand in 2014 when the new standard was adopted. And, the percentage of schools requiring each J.D. student to participate in a law clinic or externship course as a condition of graduation only increased marginally from 20% in 2016-17 to 23% in the 2019-20 survey.

            Two thirds of schools in the CSALE survey did report making some changes to their curriculum in response to the ABA’s new experiential requirement, with almost half reporting the addition of a new law clinic, field placement, or simulation course(s), and one quarter of schools reporting increased slots available in an existing experiential course(s). A 2018 survey by Allison Korn and Laila Hlass also found that about two thirds of schools reported an expansion or enhancement of their course offerings in light of the ABA’s new experiential course requirement.[5]

            In both surveys, however, significant numbers of schools simply restructured existing courses to meet the experiential training definition, including merely relabeling parts of the first-year required legal writing course as “experiential” or offering a one-credit simulation component to a doctrinal course. Because the survey questions did not ask separately about law clinic and externship courses but grouped them with non-clinical simulation courses, the data do not reveal if legal education has increased live-client clinic or externship opportunities for students or simply adjusted to the new requirement in other ways. In the 2019-20 CSALE survey, there was a slight increase of approximately 5% in the reported percentage of students that participated in a law clinic or externship prior to graduation. But fewer than 20% of schools attributed any increase in clinic or externship demand to the new ABA requirement.

            To the extent the ABA’s new six-credit experiential requirement was intended to provide law students with more meaningful hands-on training in important professional skills, its own data do not show that intended result. In addition, surveys of schools on their implementation of the new training requirement do not show significant gains in skills training as a result of the new accreditation standard.

            It is time for the ABA to address these deficiencies by at a minimum requiring schools to report actual enrollments in law clinic and simulation courses so that the ABA can truly judge the effect of its requirement and prospective applicants to law schools will not continue to be potentially deceived by reports of ethereal “available” law clinic opportunities.[6]

            Yet students, and the clients they will soon represent in practice, deserve more than just enhanced reporting requirements. The ABA’s six-credit experiential requirement remains far below the skills training other professional schools require of their students.[7] Two recent studies on legal education have highlighted the need for greatly enhanced skills training, including mandatory clinical training prior to bar licensing.[8] The ABA should heed these calls for reform and revisit the proposals for fifteen-credits of experiential coursework and a mandatory, live-client clinical experience for all J.D. students.

[1] An ABA memorandum explained that “substantial instruction” equaled only one credit of lawyering skills instruction, which could be in a simulation course. Peter A. Joy, The Uneasy History of Experiential Education in U.S. Law Schools, 122 Dick. L. Rev. 551, 574 (2018), available at

[2] Prior to 2017, the ABA also required schools to report the actual number of students enrolled in law clinic and simulation courses, not just seats available. However, the ABA determined that asking schools to report actual enrollment, when the accreditation standard only requires “substantial opportunities,” was unnecessarily burdensome and now only requires schools to report the number of clinic and simulation opportunities that are potentially available to students.

[3] New York Court of Appeals, New Skills Competency Requirement for Admission to the Bar (Dec. 16, 2015), at; Task Force on Experiential Learning and Admission to the Bar: Report to Chief Judge Lippman and the New York Court of Appeals 3 (Nov. 2015), at

[4] Center for the Study of Applied Legal Education, 2019-20 Survey of Applied Legal Education (2020), available at

[5] Allison Korn & Laila L. Hlass, Assessing the Experiential (R)Evolution, 65 Villanova L. Rev. 713, 731-33 (2020), available at

[6] One school with enrollments of approximately 300 students per class claimed in its 2018 509 Required Disclosure to prospective applicants over 1,500 seats available to students in its law clinics. Another school with a class of 100 reported over 300 clinic positions available, yet only 50 students actually enrolled in those purported available positions.

[7] See Robert R. Kuehn, Pricing Clinical Legal Education, 92 Denv. U. L. Rev. 1, App.. A (2014) (documenting one-quarter to one-third required credits in skills training for other professional schools), available at.

[8] Deborah Jones Merritt & Logan Cornett, Building a Better Bar 75-76 (2020), available at; Joan W. Howarth & Judith Welch Wegner, Ringing Changes: Systems Thinking About Legal Licensing, 13 Fla. Int’l L. Rev. 383, 430-31 (2019), available at

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