Did you know you can do a clinic at Yale Law School if you are a 1L? I’d imagine that a lot of schools offer this kind of experiential learning given the current market conditions, but Yale Law has been doing it for a while. It seems a bit aggressive to allow 1Ls to talk to real people with actual problems, but I spent my first year trying to figure out how to keep my drinking up at college levels, so what do I know?
Apparently Yale Law touts first-year clinical experience as a “thing” that sets Yale apart — as if its top ranking wasn’t enough for students with an embarrassment of good choices. Our own David Lat took part in a clinic as a 1L; it continued into his 2L year, when he conducted a trial and got a published opinion (he won the case, because of course he did).
Lat got to do all that, and he is a man. I’m not saying that those two things are connected, but some people at YLS are questioning whether these clinical placements are equally open to women…
Somebody on the Yale Wall (which competes with Michigan Law for the honor of the “best law school listserv”) conducted an informal survey about clinic placements. A tipster reports:
People at YLS are up in arms that, despite advertising how Yale is so unique because there are clinical opportunities in the first year, some large fraction of 1Ls were locked out of clinics and that fraction was overwhelmingly female.
Here are the numbers posted on the Wall:
* At least 24 1L women were denied or waitlisted by multiple clinics and have yet to receive a spot in any clinic. This represents at least 24% of women in the 1L class. 4 men are in the same boat. This means that at least 14% of 1L’s bid for multiple clinics and did not receive a spot in any clinic.
* At least 16 1L’s (evenly divided across genders) applied to only one clinic and were not admitted.
* I heard from 7 upperclassmen, all of whom were not admitted to a clinic during at least one of their 2L semesters and some of whom were not admitted to a clinic during their 1L spring as well.
The poster, in a very Yale way, takes pains to note the possible gaps and oversights in his or her survey. The poster appends an FAQ to the post, obviously trying to blunt criticism from those who like to believe that sexism doesn’t exist.
The last two questions and answers are the best:
Q: What does the data say about whether women were less likely than men to be admitted into clinics?
A: Nothing. The statistics above are not meant to serve as evidence that women were disproportionately waitlisted or rejected by clinics. If that is the case, that is definitely an issue worth addressing.
Q: If women were not disproportionately rejected, then why should we care about the results?
A: I think we should care for at least two reasons. First, experiential education is hugely important to many of us. Many students emailed to say that the chance to participate in 1L clinics were a major reason they chose YLS. Some said they had been looking forward to clinics more than anything else at YLS next semester. Others said they felt misled by the YLS pitch that YLS students could always find a clinical spot if they wanted one, unlike the situation at other law schools.
Second, if YLS wants to support its female students, it should provide the kind of opportunities that its female students are interested in. If that happens to be clinics, then more clinical opportunities should be provided.
This person is going to make a damn fine lawyer. “This is not evidence! I present this non-evidence for no reason. HOWEVER, should this non-evidence be indicative of actual evidence that may be uncovered at a later time, feel free to act on it.”
You can read the full Wall post on the next page.
For my part, I find the non-evidence of sexism at Yale dispositive. Dispositive of what, I’m not really sure. (I’d make a great TV judge.)
By the way, this isn’t the first time this year that we’ve heard some rumblings about disparate treatment of women at YLS (if you’d like to share your concerns, you know where to find us: firstname.lastname@example.org). It’s not good enough for Yale to say that clinics are a thing 1Ls can do and then have a bunch of its 1L women iced out of clinical opportunities.
It really is an issue of “opportunity” here. I really don’t want to hear any knuckle-dragging BS about how “maybe the male students just ‘earned’ more clinical chances than the women.” They’re 1Ls, they haven’t earned squat. If Yale is going to offer this opportunity, it needs to make sure that it is offering the opportunity equally. And if this happened because of random selection, maybe gender should be taken into account in the future when allocating clinical opportunities.
OR it could just be that Yale did a really poor job estimating the interest in their clinics this year. That’s possible too. So… what do you want to go with, YLS: sexist jerks, or incompetent administrators? Just let me know.