Nearly 165 years after the University of Mississippi School of Law first opened its doors, the school will have a female majority in the incoming class — for the first time in school history.
According to the law school admissions department, women make up 53% of the incoming class, an 11% increase from the 2018 class.
Stacey Lantagne, associate dean for faculty development, said this new majority has profound impacts on all students.
“The law is applicable to all of us, so we need to have all voices included in that conversation,” Lantagne said. “The more women that are in a classroom, the more likely female students are to speak up.”
This data follows a national trend among accredited law schools; in 2016, women outnumbered men in incoming law school classrooms and have followed suit in each year since. In 2018, women made up 53% of all first year law students nationally, a .8% increase from the year prior.
Additionally, this female majority isn’t exclusive to students. In 2017, Susan Duncan was selected as the first female dean of the University of Mississippi School of Law, and 10 of the 13 positions in the law school administration are held by women, including the assistant dean of student affairs and associate dean for faculty development.
This spike in female enrollment comes over 100 years after Bessie Young became the first woman to graduate from the school of law in 1915. Young served as an attorney for the Office of the United States Attorney, Southern District of New York and also assisted future U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan.
This class is also substantially more racially diverse than the 2018 class. 31.6% of the 2019 class identifies as a person of color, representing a 6.6% increase from the year prior. Black students account for the majority of law students of color, comprising 19% of the first year class.
Lantagne added that the more diverse a classroom is, the more informed and effective the legal system can become, while new perspectives also allow for dynamic takes on historical cases and past injustices.
Compared to 2018 data for the Ole Miss undergraduate student population, the law school has a smaller percentage of women, but a larger share of non-white students. In 2018, across Oxford and regional campuses, women represented 55.4% of all students and non-white students comprised 23.6%.