Senior Status, Gender, and Race in the Legal and Liberal Arts Academies

This is the first national study examining the post-tenure experiences of law professors in the United States. Tenured law professors shape many aspects of the institutional settings within law schools, which in turn shape the professional development of the nation’s lawyers. Thus law schools play an important role, because they train many of the individuals who run our government. This study provides information about the professional lives and values of the law professors who are leaders in United States legal education. The study combines a national survey of tenured law professors (Phase 1) and in-depth follow-up interviews with 100 of those professors (Phase 2). The combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches offers a more in-depth picture than would be possible with either method by itself.

Initial data from this major empirical study has shown that, although 76% of all professors in the study felt that the tenure process was fair, the perceptions of female tenured faculty members and tenured faculty of color differ significantly from those of their white male counterparts: both female professors and professors of color perceived the tenure process as less fair and more difficult than did male or white professors. Female professors of color had the most negative perceptions. The interviews conducted during Phase 2 gave researchers insight into the differing perceptions revealed by the quantitative analysis. These interviews indicated several sources of dissatisfaction with the tenure process, including the effects of implicit bias and a number of cultural and structural factors in the workplace. Project researchers are in the process of completing a book project that will summarize the complete findings.

After Tenure: Post-Tenure Law Professors in the United States

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Elizabeth Mertz