Female enrollment in law school on the rise at BYU

Kurt London is a 2016 graduate of the J. Reuben Clark Law School.

There are more women enrolled in law school at BYU and across the nation than ever before. According to Above the Law, women have outnumbered men in law school classrooms since 2016, and the numbers continue to climb.

Law school was largely a male-dominated field in the past. Ruth Bader Ginsburg pursued a law degree in the mid-1950s. She was recently memorialized in a feature film, “On the Basis of Sex.” Ginsburg was one of only nine women in a class of 500 men during her freshman year at Harvard Law School.

Her legal career took her to the top of her profession where she now stands as the senior female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Ginsburg advocates for more women to step up and help shape the nation’s laws.

BYU Law graduate Kurt London said, “No longer can the law be considered a structure for the ‘good old boys.'”

The field of law seems to be adjusting to a new perspective that women can bring to the table.

Lauren Malner, a student admitted into BYU Law who will start classes in the fall, got her first experience in law working for Canada’s Parliament the summer after her freshman year.

“One of the issues being discussed in the House of Commons while I was working there was the assisted suicide legislation,” Malner said. “It essentially said that assisted suicide was legal as long as the death of the patient is reasonably foreseeable.”

Because of her experience, Malner became interested in statutory interoperation, which is how courts interpret and apply the law.

Malner says she is excited about the increasing number of women who are pursuing law.

“I think that there are so many women wanting to become involved with the law because of inequality issues that are particularly present right now with our cultural dialogue,” Malner said. “There are many people and organizations that are trying to advocate female empowerment. That’s trickling down to the general consciousness, making women feel that there is more acceptance to pursue certain careers or ambitions.”

Though she hasn’t yet begun her studies in law, Malner says she feels there are many qualities that make a good law student.

“A strong work ethic, being detail oriented and also having a public spirit,” she said. “I think it’s great when law students are willing to help the community because not only does that give them a sense of purpose but also that they are willing to make a difference for society.”

Recently admitted BYU Law student Lauren Malner describes qualities she believes make a good law student. (Courtney Tietjen)

Malner feels that women in law school have a huge impact on society today.

“Not only do these women have the potential to do good in society through their own work, they are giving a vision to the younger generation,” she said. “For me, seeing a woman who is a successful attorney or who has in some way used their education to make a difference really opens my mind, as well as the minds of girls around me, to what is possible.

Kurt London, who graduated in law from BYU in 2016, specializing in criminal law said he has seen how women impact the law. He grew up in a family that was heavily involved in law. His father went to law school and practiced law for 10 years as a district attorney in Orange County, California, and later became a judge.
“At a young age, my father taught me the importance of service and the influence of the legal system,” London said. “I grew up knowing that with these certain skill sets, I could help my community and those in need.”
While attending BYU Law, London said he learned about how to change his thinking as he was surrounded by women who shared his career aspirations.

“It was empowering to see women striving for my same goals. Some of my classmates were mothers, and some were even pregnant,” London said. “The mental fortitude to be able to take care of one’s family while struggling through law school was awe-inspiring. It was also refreshing to get different perspectives in the various legal classes and discussions.”

When asked about how women being enrolled in law school changes society, he said the ideas they lend help change legal culture.

“Having a large number of women enroll in law school not only changes the law school atmosphere, it changes the legal culture,” London said. “The culture changes as it is forced to be more inclusive of everyone.”

London says he supports more women pursuing an education in law because he has seen and experienced the benefits.

BYU’s School of Communications director Ed Carter also advocates for the rise of female enrollment in law school. Currently an attorney, journalist and professor of communications at BYU, he graduated from the University of Oxford in 2016 with a master’s degree in international human rights law and is involved with communications law and copyright law.

Carter says he loves seeing former students over at the law school when he speaks.
Front Desk in the J. Reuben Clark Building, home of BYU Law. (Courtney Tietjen)
“I go about once a year when I’m invited to go speak or present to a class. Every year, without fail, I will see a former student who is now at the BYU Law,” he said. “It’s always interesting to me because almost every single time it tends to be women. It’s nice to see.”
Carter believes they make an impact.
“It feeds on itself over time. As a woman goes and does law school, they then become an example for the next group. There is a path, and that’s something that is valuable — to have an example who can show other women that it works,” Carter said.
London urges any women that dream of going to law school to pursue it.
“If you have any interest in the law, pursue your dreams,” he said. “The law is in dire need of women. Without women, there is no process, and the rights and voices of millions go unheard. There will be many obstacles, but it is of the utmost importance that women also participate in the legal system as their male counterparts do.”
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