Your browser is not supported. For the best experience, you should upgrade to a modern browser with improved speed and security.

In Historic First, Women Took the Lead at America's Top 16 Most Prestigious Law Reviews

For the first time in history, the flagship law reviews in the U.S. have all been led by women.

The all-female roster of editors in chief of the flagship law reviews. Front row, from left: Ela Leshem, Yale; Alveena Shah, UCLA; Noor Hasan, Berkeley; Maia Cole, NYU; Farrah Bara, Duke; Nicole Collins, Stanford; Lauren Beck, Harvard. Back row, from left: Christina Wu, Texas; Laura Toulme, U-Va.; Annie Prossnitz, Northwestern; Emily Vernon, Chicago; Lauren Kloss, Cornell; Gabriella Ravida, Penn; Grace Paras, Georgetown; Sarah McDonald, Michigan; and Andrea Gonzalez, UCLA. (Leigh Vogel/Duke University School of Law).

For the first time in history, the flagship law reviews at the 16 most prestigious law schools in the United States have all been led by female editors-in-chief! These highly competitive posts are one of the most coveted positions among law students, but as recently as 2012, men overwhelmingly dominated the editor-in-chef slots. The change followed a significant push by law schools and law reviews to welcome students from diverse backgrounds. "It speaks well to the progress that many law schools have made toward cultivating a more hospitable environment for women, people of color, and first-generation law students," observed Melissa Murray, a professor at New York University School of Law. "But credit should not go to law schools alone. The law reviews deserve credit as well."

Law reviews are student-run journals that publish articles exploring legal issues from professors, judges, and other legal professionals. The editor-in-chief role in particular is highly influential, and this position at top law schools has been held by many current and former members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, and Presidents. However, law review editors-in-chief are selected by their peers, which means the results can be biased. A study by the non-profit Ms. JD, which is dedicated to helping aspiring female lawyers, found that during the 2011-2012 academic year women received 47.3% of law degrees and made up 42.45% of law review members at the top 50 law schools, but only 28.6% of editors-in-chief were women. Moreover, the representation of women in editor-in-chief positions actually dropped from 33% in the 2008-2010 study. "It’s not just about us running," Grace Paras, the top editor at Georgetown's Law Journal told the Washington Post, "but about our peers seeing women leaders in that role."

In response to the finding that women were so poorly represented among law review leadership, many law schools and their associated law journals worked to encourage underrepresented student groups, changing the way students are selected to speak in class and providing mentorships and other supports. "There’s nothing astounding about having nine men on the Supreme Court because we’ve had that for decades and decades," points out Farrah Bara, Duke Law's editor-in-chief, but when the Cornell Law Review elected an all-female executive board in 2019, it generated headlines across the country. "We just don’t think about women in positions of power in such high numbers. We think of a critical mass as three of nine."

When the sixteen women were elected for the 2019/2020 academic year, Bara recognized the uniqueness of this milestone, which took on special significance by falling on the year marking the 100th anniversary of American women winning the right to vote. To mark this moment,  Bara proposed a special project to her fellow editors-in-chief: a joint publication focused on women and the law. Each one signed on, and the result is the newly released Women & Law with fourteen essays by a broad range of women from the legal community exploring what it means to be a woman in law today. In its foreward, Bara observed "I treasure what we have accomplished, recognize that our work is incomplete, and hope that in a hundred years, the women and men of the legal community look back at this with bewilderment — for what we recognize today as exceptional has become, to them, utterly ordinary."

This election of so many female editors-in-chief, who are now finishing up their year-long terms, is a sign that such long-entrenched attitudes are changing. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was the first female member of both the Harvard Law Review and the Columbia Law Review, said at a recent event with the editors, "It’s such a contrast to the ancient days when I was in law school. There really is no better time for women to enter the legal profession." And while female law students today still face barriers, they're up for the challenge of breaking them down one by one. "There is certainly more glass yet to be shattered," declared Duke Law professor Marin Levy. "But I see a whole lot of hammers out there."

Books & Resources About Groundbreaking Women In Law

I Look Up To... Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I Look Up To... Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Written by: Anna Membrino
Illustrated by: Fatti Burke
Recommended Age: 2 - 4

"I look up to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Let me tell you why..." This detailed board book is a great way to introduce babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to a woman you admire! The book distills Ruth Bader Ginsburg's inspiring attributes into page spreads with vibrant illustrations that are appealing for babies and toddlers and text that's interesting enough for preschoolers. Each spread includes a quote from RBG herself! This book is from the I Look Up To... series that celebrates inspiring women; other volumes in the series feature Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Malala Yousafzai, Serena Williams, and Misty Copeland.

I Am Sonia Sotomayor

I Am Sonia Sotomayor

Written by: Brad Meltzer
Illustrated by: Christopher Eliopoulos
Recommended Age: 4 - 8

As a child, Sonia loved to read — especially Nancy Drew mysteries! When she saw Perry Mason on TV, she knew she wanted to be a lawyer. Many people thought Latina girls didn't grow up to be lawyers, and she faced other obstacles, too, including a diabetes diagnosis at the age of 9. Fortunately, she had people who believed in her — and because of that, she reached the highest court in the nation. A lively, conversational tone and colorful illustrations draw kids into this book from the Ordinary People Change the World series. For two more picture books about Sotomayor, check out Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx / La juez que creció en el Bronx for ages 4 to 8 and Turning Pages: My Life Story for ages 5 to 9.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

Written by: Debbie Levy
Illustrated by: Elizabeth Baddeley
Recommended Age: 5 - 9

This first-ever children's picture book about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg proves that disagreeing doesn't make you disagreeable! I Dissent tells the story of Ginsburg's many disagreements: arguments against the inequality, discrimination, and unfairness that she saw all around her. Equally importantly, though, Ginsburg's life and friendship show that you can oppose someone's opinion vocally, even ferociously, while still being friends. Inviting and informative, this lively telling of Ginsburg's story encourages young readers to speak up themselves!

Leading the Way: Women In Power
New!

Leading the Way: Women In Power
New!

Recommended Age: 9 and up

Women may not have always been given a seat at the tables of power — so they, in the words of Shirley Chisholm, brought a folding chair! This inspiring volume pays tribute to women past and present who demanded their right to a voice in the political process, from suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, to early politicians like Victoria Woodhull, Bella Abzug, and Jeannette Rankin, to today's trailblazers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, and Tammy Duckworth. Fifty capsule biographies of American women in politics give young readers a sense of the scope of women's impact on the country, from Frances Perkin's labor protections to Ruth Bader Ginsburg's key legal arguments and decisions. It's an exciting book that's sure to inspire a new generation of girls and women determined to change the world.

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor

The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor

Written by: Sonia Sotomayor
Recommended Age: 10 and up

Before she was a lawyer, a judge, and the first Hispanic person appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor was a girl in a Bronx housing project, struggling with juvenile diabetes, poverty, and family troubles. But when she found a big dream to pursue, nothing would stand in her way! In this middle-grade adaptation of her bestselling adult memoir, My Beloved World, Sotomayor tells her story in a relatable, appealing way, encouraging young readers to "dream big dreams" — and fight for what they know is right.

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Journey to Justice
New!

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Journey to Justice
New!

Written by: Debbie Levy
Illustrated by: Whitney Gardner
Recommended Age: 10 and up

Today Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a feminist icon — but how did she get there? In this graphic biography, Debbie Levy, author of the best-selling picture book I Dissent, highlights how Ginsburg evolved over time, from her shy childhood to a passionate advocate and activist to a celebrated Supreme Court Justice. Expressive illustrations from Whitney Gardner capture both Ginsburg's life and the world around her that helped shape her beliefs. Compelling and empowering, this graphic novel is a detailed introduction to the life of the inspiring RBG!

First: Sandra Day O'Connor

First: Sandra Day O'Connor

Written by: Evan Thomas
Recommended Age: Adults

Sandra Day O'Connor may have graduated near the the top of her Stanford law school class, but in 1952, no law firm would even interview her. Determined to shatter every glass ceiling she encountered, O'Connor became the first female majority leader in a state senate. As a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals, she proved her willingness to uphold and humanize the law. Once she was appointed the first female justice on the United States Supreme Court, she became a key decision maker in many of America's most important legal cases. This personal and poignant look at a woman who was used to being first at almost everything she did will inspire anyone who wants to ignore the naysayers and take the lead.

My Own Words

My Own Words

Recommended Age: Adults

In her first book since joining the Supreme Court bench 23 years ago, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shares her insights on wide-ranging topics, including including gender equality, the workways of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution. The writings included were selected by both Justice Ginsburg and by her authorized biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, who also provide chapter introductions that give biographical context and even quotes from interviews they have conducted about Ginsburg's life and work. This thoughtful memoir provides an insightful look into the life of one of America’s most influential women.

Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World

Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World

Written by: Linda Hirshman
Recommended Age: Adults

Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were the first two women ever to sit at the Supreme Court bench, and while their individual stories are remarkable, equally intriguing is the story of how they supported one another despite their differences. Their friendship transcended political, religious, region, and culture as each of them fought for recognition in a male-dominated profession and strove to make things better for the women who followed after them. Hirshman’s dual biography juggles legal fact and personal anecdote for a rounded and complex look at two remarkable women and their equally remarkable friendship.

On the Basis of Sex

On the Basis of Sex

Recommended Age: 12 and up

When a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg begins her law career, nobody takes a woman lawyer and young mother seriously. But Ginsburg is determined to leave her mark on the law, first as a professor at Rutgers, encouraging her students to see the many ways in which the law discriminates, and then in the landmark Moritz v. Commissioner case. If she can strike down one law that discriminates on the basis of sex — even if that law is discriminating against a man — perhaps she can start to pull apart the fabric of legal inequality. Director Mimi Leder captures the fire and determination that drove Ginsburg to become a tireless advocate for civil rights and gender equality in this exuberant biopic. There is also a documentary about Ginsburg's life and influence, RBG, which we recommend for ages 10 and up.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Plush Doll

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Plush Doll

Recommended Age: 3 and up

"I dissent!" declared this plush doll — if not with her voice, than with her distinctive dissenting jabot collar! This 11" plush from the Unemployed Philosophers Guild pays tribute to groundbreaking lawyer and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It comes with a detachable tag featuring a portrait of Ginsburg, interesting facts, and quotes. High-quality plush and embroidered details create a friend you'll delight to have keep you company on your desk, study carrel, or chambers.

Amazon.co.uk

The Supremes Women Justices Shirt

The Supremes Women Justices Shirt

Recommended Age: 2 and up

Meet the Supremes — justices, that is! This shirt pays tribute to the four women who have sat at the Supreme Court bench: Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. All four women are depicted in stylized portraits that any feminist will love! This shirt is available in youth sizes 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12; women's sizes small to 3XL; and men's/unisex sizes small to 3XL. For another shirt celebrating Ginsburg, we recommend this Notorious RBG Shirt for ages 13 and up.

Amazon.co.uk

You May Also Like

Help keep A Mighty Girl growing in the years ahead!

If you discover books or other resources via this post that you would like to purchase, please use the "Buy at Amazon" and other links found on every A Mighty Girl product page. By doing so, at no added cost to you, you help to support the site and allow us to continue providing you with wonderful girl-empowering resources. We appreciate your support!