Diversity and Inclusion in Law School and Higher Education

A Kinder, Gentler Law School?: Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Legal Education at King Hall

Celestial S.D. Cassman, University of California-Davis School of Law
Lisa R. Pruitt, University of California-Davis School of Law


King Hall, the shorthand name for the University of California, Davis's Martin Luther King, Jr. School of Law, prides itself on being a "uniquely supportive atmosphere for the study of law." Indeed, some hallmarks of the school's reputation, and among the first things King Hall students and professors will tell an inquirer about the U.C. Davis School of Law, are that its students are more cooperative than competitive, its professors are accessible, and it is a particularly pleasant place to study for a law degree. This reputation is reflected in the Dean's message on the school's website, in other King Hall publicity, and even in national rankings of law schools, which have often placed U.C. Davis quite high in terms of student satisfaction. King Hall's long-standing reputation as a "uniquely supportive" law school, along with its relatively high degrees of student and faculty diversity, caused us to wonder whether the reputation is deserved and, in particular, if all students at King Hall - including women and minorities - experience it as being so student friendly. In short, it caused us to wonder whether a study at UC Davis, a relatively diverse, purportedly student-friendly law school, would reveal findings similar to those of studies at other schools: that women and students of color are more often unsatisfied with their legal education experiences and, indeed, that many find law school to be an alienating experience.

Part I of this Article summarizes the research to date on the interplay between student demographics and legal education in various U.S. law schools. Part II provides contextual information about the U.C. Davis School of Law and discusses the opportunity and need for a study at King Hall. Part III discusses the student survey conducted at King Hall in February 2004. The methodology used to analyze the survey data is described in Part IV, and Part V presents the results of our survey in relation to other information about King Hall students. We conclude with suggestions for making King Hall a more egalitarian and welcoming learning environment for all students. We anticipate that many of these suggestions could also be appropriately implemented in other law schools.