FLP Interview with Jen Mullins

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I recently met Jennifer Mullins, a Legal Rhetoric faculty member at American University Washington College of Law, where she is one of two 2011–2012 Graduate Teaching Fellows. Professor Mullins graduated cum laude from the Washington College of Law in 2011. As a student, she served as the Editor-in-Chief of the American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with honors and distinction in 2006, where she studied biology and international studies. (Source here.)

I asked Jen to do an interview here at the blog about her recent and current scholarship:

Q: At the “Gender and the Legal Profession’s Pipeline to Power” Symposium two weeks ago, you presented about some of the reactions to your study of student note publications [The Persistent Gender Disparity in Student Note Publication, 23 Yale J.L. & Feminism 385 (2011)].  Can you give a quick overview of both the study and the reactions?

 JM: The study revealed that between 1999 and 2009, women persistently published fewer student notes in the law reviews of the top 50 law schools.  At 13 schools, women wrote less than 35% of the published notes.  Reactions to the data reaffirm our initial conclusion that there is a lack of institutional knowledge within law review administration.  But, the reactions also suggested that there has been a lack of interest or – even worse – a state of denial about this and other gender disparity issues.  These attitudes may explain why the disparity has been so persistent.

Q: Why is gender parity in law review notes an important issue?

 JM: When we surveyed authors that are now attorneys, they uniformly told us that publication as a student was a significant factor that employers considered when making hiring decisions.  If women are less likely to have a “publications” line on their resume, they are also less likely to receive competitive jobs like clerkships, associate positions, and academic fellowships.

Q: Women have been saying for years that it’s “only a matter of time” until women assume proportional leadership in the legal profession, politics, corporate America.  Yet parity remains elusive.  Why is that?

 JM: I think the reactions to our research tell part of the story.  There is no uniform commitment to understanding gender disparity within the legal community.  Indeed, some people are hostile towards the idea that such a disparity even exists.  Overcoming and eliminating disparity (be it gender, race, etc.) will require a united effort throughout the legal community.  However, it does appear that there is a new found interest in these issues.

Q: What are you working on now?

JM: I am writing a piece for the Pipeline to Power Symposium Issue about the reactions to our research.  I have also been thinking about Judge Gertner’s fantastic speech at the symposium and might start working on a piece on Title VII.

Q: If you had to recommend three books for every incoming law student to read, what would they be?

JM: Getting to Maybe, Becoming Gentlemen, and Legally Blonde (Amanda Brown actually attended Stanford Law School and based the story on her own experience).

Thanks, Jen!

-Bridget Crawford

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