Investigating Pandemic Effects on Legal Academia

29 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2021

See all articles by Meera E. Deo

Meera E. Deo

Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE); Southwestern Law School; American Bar Foundation

Date Written: May 10, 2021


Even before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of the American workplace, challenges based on race, gender, and “raceXgender” (the combination of race and gender) were the norm in legal academia. The “Pandemic Effects on Legal Academia” (PELA) project, considers the ways in which the pandemic affects the retention and mental health of law faculty, and especially the most vulnerable professors--including junior faculty, caregivers, faculty of color, women faculty, and women of color.

Existing research has documented the extra service burdens many women of color carry both professionally and personally, from meeting with students and organizing committees on campus, to being the default parent and household manager at home. COVID-19 has intensified these pressures in forceful ways. Women faculty have been expected to augment what were already substantial contributions to academic caretaking by crafting new policies, arranging online meetings with vulnerable students, and serving on an increasing number of committees. At the same time, schools and summer camps have been closed in many cities for much of the year—stymying opportunities for women, who are more likely to be caretakers of these now homebound children, to engage in focused research or scholarly writing. The professional and mental health effects of these challenges are especially significant for untenured faculty (including pre-tenured and contract-based professors) as well as faculty of color.

Through both quantitative (survey) and qualitative (in-depth interview) data, the PELA study examines whether and how the pandemic has exacerbated challenges for already-vulnerable law faculty. This Article provides an outline of the PELA study, including instructive literature, research questions, and hypotheses that guide this nascent empirical project.

Keywords: academia, legal education, empirical research, diversity equity inclusion, COVID

Suggested Citation

Deo, Meera E., Investigating Pandemic Effects on Legal Academia (May 10, 2021). Fordham Law Review, Vol. 89, No. 6, 2021, Available at SSRN:

Meera E. Deo (Contact Author)

Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) ( email )

1900 E. Tenth Street Eigenmann Hall
Suite 419
Bloomington, IN 47406-7512
United States

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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