The Diversity Imperative Revisited: Racial and Gender Inclusion in Clinical Law Faculty
26 Clinical L. Rev. 127 (2019)
20 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2019 Last revised: 26 Sep 2019
Date Written: August 23, 2019
The demographics of clinical law faculties matter. As Professor Jon Dubin persuasively argued nearly twenty years ago in his article Faculty Diversity as a Clinical Legal Education Imperative, clinical faculty of color entering the legal academy in the 1980s and 1990s expanded the communities served by law school clinics and the lawyering methods used to serve clients in significant ways that enriched legal education and the profession. They also broadened clinical scholarship to include deconstructions and reconstructions of clinical teaching, offered crucial role modeling and mentorship to students of color, and helped to elevate cross-cultural communication and multiracial collaboration as core lawyering skills.
Professor Dubin catalogued these contributions while pointing to data that showed that clinical faculties remained overwhelmingly White, and he urged law schools to recognize the urgency of diversifying clinical faculty. While there has been some research and scholarship devoted to the gender composition of clinical faculties, to our knowledge, there has been no substantive reexamination of the importance of racial composition since Professor Dubin’s article in 2000, nor any examination of clinical faculty diversity beyond race, ethnicity, and binary gender.
The Clinical Legal Education Association created the Committee for Faculty Equity and Inclusion to draw attention to the crisis of diversity among clinical faculties, and to urge law schools to take proactive steps to remedy this longstanding failure. This Essay from the Committee assesses what progress has been made since Professor Dubin’s intervention and interrogates historical trends in the racial and gender composition of clinical faculty from 1980 to 2017, using existing data.
We found that there has been limited progress on racial and ethnic inclusion in clinical law faculties. While the total percentage of people of color has grown from 10% to 21%, the inclusion of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous faculty has been largely stagnant. Black clinical faculty members reached 7% of all clinical faculty in 1999 and have never exceeded that percentage. Latinx clinical faculty representation, at 5%, is the same as it was in 1981. Indigenous faculty have never constituted even 1%. Overall, White faculty continue to hold nearly 8 out of 10 clinical faculty positions.
With regard to gender, whereas women were underrepresented among clinical faculty in the 1980s, women now outnumber men in clinical faculty positions by nearly 2 to 1. Given that women remain underrepresented in law faculties as a whole, this seemingly positive development in the gender composition of clinical instructors nonetheless raises concerns about internal status inequities and the clustering of women faculty members in non-tenured positions with lower salaries and less job protection, including on clinical, legal research and writing and library faculties. Therefore, this trend may be a cautionary tale for the inclusion of other underrepresented groups moving forward.
Acknowledging the limitations of existing data, we offer recommendations for future data collection that would recognize more inclusive identities and backgrounds. We suggest that future research assess job satisfaction and sustainability of faculty positions for people from historically disadvantaged groups to ensure that we are not just providing access to clinical law faculties, but also offering equitable and supportive working environments. New research will be crucial to developing a more meaningful understanding of inequities among clinical faculty, and to assessing equity and inclusion beyond descriptive representation.
We conclude with a discussion of best practices for inclusive clinical faculty hiring and suggestions for future initiatives that may make the profession more accessible. Looking back on Professor Dubin’s arguments, we are disheartened by the lack of subsequent scholarship on clinical faculty diversity, particularly with regard to racial and ethnic representation. We are concerned that it reflects a degree of complacency with structural racism at our own institutions and a failure to recognize the dissonance between the values we promote in our lawyering and our participation in maintaining barriers to the profession. We hope this Essay will disrupt that complacency and revive Professor Dubin’s arguments for a diversity imperative, which are even more resonant in the current moment.
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