In order to deepen our understanding of the careers of all Harvard Law School graduates and further explore issues relating to gender and work/life balance, the Program on the Legal Profession is pleased to announce the launch of the Harvard Law School Career Study.
The HLS Career Study is the program’s latest effort to empirically study the legal profession in order to expand and deepen the overall understanding of lawyers and their careers. Important issues the study will evaluate include patterns of significant investments in work at various stages of legal careers and whether (and why) personal and professional transition patterns vary for women and men. The study also aims to understand the impact of globalized social and economic relations on matters such as legal practice settings, client relationships, and the training and development of lawyers.
The HLS Career Study also analyzes the career trajectories of HLS graduates by systematically documenting and comparing the careers of alumni at various points in time. Through a detailed analysis of where, when, and how career trajectories converge and diverge, the project will help to identify the factors most significant in generating these changes. Specifically, it will isolate and quantify the extent to which preferences, social attitudes, and institutional structures impact career choices, opportunities for advancement, quality of life issues, and myriad other factors. Ultimately the research will enable the program to develop meaningful strategies for reform.
Detailed surveys have been collected from graduates (male and female) from multiple JD classes across several decades. The surveys cover a broad range of topics about the careers of HLS graduates and enable Program researchers to:
- Develop a coherent body of empirical data on the professional trajectories of HLS graduates at different stages of their legal careers, together with comparative information on how career paths differ (or not) for graduates with different racial, gender, and personal characteristics;
- Compare and identify the critical factors that account for career success, upward mobility, and economic progress within the legal profession; and
- Ascertain the extent to which careers are impacted by institutional biases that deny equal opportunities to compete and excel, versus being the product of freely-made personal decisions to pursue other lifestyle goals or professional ends.
We anticipate that the HLS Career Study will yield the following interconnected benefits:
- A series of comprehensive reports to be widely distributed in both academic and professional circles about the careers of the law school’s graduates and how their careers are similar to or different from graduates from other schools;
- New courses and teaching materials that will focus attention on the complex ways in which issues such as gender, race, and other personal characteristics continue to affect legal careers and that will better prepare the next generation of HLS students to meet these challenges;
- New executive education courses that focus specifically on issues of work-life balance and non-traditional career paths, such as the challenges of “off-ramping” and re-entering the workforce after an extended absence;
- A series of “best practices” and other reform proposals that will encourage employers, law schools, government officials, bar associations, and other stakeholders to develop policies and practices grounded in empirical data that will better serve the interests and needs of both institutions and individuals and allow for a better integration of work and family life; and
- Opportunities for networking, discussion, and community building among HLS alumni, current students, and law school faculty and administrators
The “C-55 Survey” of female Harvard Law School Graduates was conducted by the HLS Program on the Legal Profession over a three month period from July – September 2008. A total of 1,855 alumnae responded to the online survey. While the responses detailed in the report are not representative of all female HLS graduates, they provide an interesting snapshot of HLS women’s lives and careers.
Read the report