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Ole Miss Law Looking More Diverse, Welcoming to Women


Photo By Kyra Henderson
The University of Mississippi School of Law has about 43% of female and 57% male law students with a current bar passage rate of about 90%.“Women can’t keep up the pace.” “Their responsibility is in the home.” “I’m afraid of their emotional outbursts.”  Those criticisms of women working in law firms came out in a study conducted fifty years ago by Cornell University Law School.
Yet, Ole Miss associate dean and law school professor Benjamin Cooper says female lawyers still don’t have it easy.
“I think women face the same sorts of challenges in the legal field that they do in all sectors of the working world, and our society continues to put obstacles in the way of women achieving equality in the workplace,” says Cooper. “I am not expert on the obstacles but from what I know, some men sexually harass women and believe they simply cannot do the job.”
According to americabar.org, today 64% of those working in the legal profession as lawyers are men whereas women account for 36%.  And though women are a minority, some believe the profession is making progress.
Minnie Howard, an Ole Miss law graduate and managing attorney at the Oxford Litigation Center of North Mississippi Rural Legal Services says, “I believe women are currently greatly appreciated in the profession of law, and I think this appreciation has come over time.”
Howard is an African-American woman. She credits those who came before her with creating a path to her success.
“However, years ago, pioneering black females often had to be exceptional just to be considered equal to the task of being a lawyer,” says Howard. “With more and more women becoming lawyers, a female black lawyer is no longer considered an anomaly.”
And the ratio of male to female law graduates has been changing at the University of Mississippi, according to Cooper.
“There are approximately the same number of female law students as there are male law students, and therefore, there are now close to the same number of women as men graduating from law school, so this is a significant milestone,” says Cooper.
This year’s law school applications for the University of Mississippi are due on April 15. Howard hopes the applicant pool and the legal profession will be the most diverse ever.
“I think the law profession must demonstrate that all races and colors are welcome in the profession, and many law firms actively participate in career expos so that students can see the law profession is more a rainbow than ever before.”
By: Kyra Henderson   khenders@go.olemiss.edu

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