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For the First Time, Most Incoming Law Students at BYU Are Women

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 21, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Brigham Young University's law school is making headlines with a report that for the first time most of the new students there are women. 

It was newsworthy because the law school is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which had a historical reputation that women were not treated equally in the church.

But times change, and now BYU's law school is actually ahead of the norm. It now has more female students coming in than the national average for law schools.

Ahead of the Norm

According to reports, 52 percent of the incoming class at J. Reuben Clark Law School are women. The American Bar Association says that 51 percent of first-year law students nationally are women.

Stacie Stewart, dean of admissions at BYU's law school, said the increase may be due to the church's change in its missionary program.

Historically, women had to wait until age 21 to serve missions. Church leadership lowered the age to 19 six years ago, and a record number of women volunteered for the 18-month ministry.

"If you are working 60 hours a week and dealing with rejection, and dealing with people who don't agree with you, maybe law school doesn't scare you as much as it did coming out of undergrad," Stewart told the Daily Herald.

Lower-Rank Ceiling?

Two years ago, a study found that more women were attending law school but mostly lower-ranked schools. Researchers said U.S. News & World Report, with its annual law school rankings, could be partly to blame.

Deborah Jones Merritt and Kyle McEntee, in their paper "The Leaky Pipeline for Women Entering the Legal Profession," said law schools focus on LSAT scores for admissions. Women tend to score lower on the multiple-choice questions.

"So, as schools chase LSAT scores to polish their U.S. News rank, women get the short end of the stick," Merritt and McEntee wrote.

U.S. News ranks BYU's law school at 41st in the nation. The University of California at Berkeley, at 12th, has the highest female enrollment in the top 20 law schools with 60 percent.

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