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Law School Deans Forced to Racially Refocus in the Face of COVID-19: AALS  

Law school deans have drastically retooled their academic and professional priorities in the wake of COVID-19, according to a newly minted report from Association of American Law Schools (AALS) and NORC at the University of Chicago.

covid 4948866 640smallAmong some of the largest shifts in priorities include expending additional time in crisis management mode and dedicating more time to diversity and inclusion initiatives, according to the AALS. Specifically, the number of deans who identified as spending “some or a lot of time on crisis management” jumped from 11% in 2019 to a noteworthy 88% the next year. Similarly, the percentage of deans spending “some or a lot of time dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts” jumped from 16% to 79% from 2019 to 2020.

“This is the first full-scale study of its kind, and comes at a very important time in legal education,” said Judith Areen, executive director of AALS, in a statement. “The study’s findings will assist law schools and universities in their dean searches and provide guidance to faculty who are considering becoming a dean. We hope this report will contribute to further diversifying the ranks of deans by education, experience, race, ethnicity, gender, and age, and thereby increase the quality of leadership in the nation’s law schools.”

Another notable jump in attention was directed at student conduct and student life issues. In 2019, only 8% of those asked reported spending meaningful time dealing with those concerns. That number jumped to 44%, though, in 2020. “Not only did I need to have the traditional skills of being a manager and understanding budgets and so forth, but I had to innovate in a changed space,” said Marc Miller, dean of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, in the report. “Having a good steady hand at the tiller was no longer sufficient to help a law school–any law school–prosper.”

From Twitter 

Reuters Legal @ReutersLegal Apr 7

"Black women deans at three U.S. law schools described Judge Ketanji Brown’s rise as an inspiration to underrepresented groups in the profession. Racial diversity among law students has grown over the past 15 years but still lags behind the U.S. population https://reut.rs/3xpS42D"

The study was aimed at identifying more effective ways to select and recruit deans, as well as identifying requisite leadership attributes, career paths and issues pressing current law school deans, according to the AALS. The results were based largely on a survey of AALS members serving in the spring of 2021 and former deans who served during the decade from 2010 to 2020.

Additional findings in the report include a notable jump in diversity for law school deans. Per the report, female deans jumped in number from 18% to 41% between 2005 and 2020, and the number of Hispanic and deans of color jumped from 13% to 31% in that same window.

Next month, the American Bar Association will tackle that very topic with its Day of Conversation sponsored by the Commission on Women in the Profession. The event will take place on Tuesday, May 24. For information on the event, visit: https://ambar.org/dayofconversation.

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