Reversing the boom that eventually saw law school enrollments equally split between men and women in the early 1990s, nationally the number of future women attorneys is declining, and officials with some Oklahoma law schools see a similar pattern.
According to American Bar Association data, the number of women enrolled in law school dropped from 49 percent to just below 47 percent over the past six years.
Martha Cordell, an assistant dean and director of admissions at the University of Tulsa College Of Law, said that TU has seen a drop in women students.
"We had one year when we had a bump," Cordell said. "But yes, statistically we have seen declining."
TU law's female entering-class enrollment has fluctuated between a high of 43 percent in 2002 to a low of 32 percent in 2006. It currently sits at 42 percent.
"This year, we worked really hard on encouraging women and really reaching out, so we saw a 10-percent increase," Cordell said. "It's still not as high as we would like to see it, but it certainly made us happy."
Cordell said TU is sensitive to the national decline in women students, and emphasizes in recruiting efforts an environment that is welcoming and helpful to their situations.
"We really try to work with men and women who have other demands on their time, such as children, maybe having to work to get through law school, those types of things," she said.
Cordell said women already in law school are helpful in easing students' concerns.
"Our current women students are wonderful advocates for our program," she said.
In addition to the time and financial commitment law school can be, Cordell said one theory of why fewer women are entering law school is that they see other rewarding, but perhaps less all- consuming, careers open to them, such as finance or business.
"But I think law schools are kind of catching on, that you can come to law school and practice law and balance all these other things," she said. "We just need to get the information to them on how they can do that, so they can feel comfortable."
At the University of Oklahoma College of Law, since 2002 the percentage of women law students has fluctuated from 56.6 percent that year to a low of 41.6 percent in 2003. It now stands at 43.7 percent. The percentage of women applying at OU law has ranged from a high of 44 percent in 2002 to a low of 37.3 percent last year.
OU law Dean Andrew Coats thinks the changes in his school's student population are attributable largely to demographic blips, and a general decline in law school applications nationwide in recent years.
"We've been pretty consistent in the number of female applicants over the years," Coats said. "We had a little bit of a drop in 2006. But so much of these little, fine things are just demographics."
He said the fact that a large part of OU's applicants are younger students, right out of college, may play a factor. …