MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - It’s been a year of “firsts” at two Mid-South law schools. Women have been enrolling at the University of Memphis and University of Mississippi law schools in record-breaking numbers.
An increase of women studying law has been a trend for the last few years.
Reagan Downing is a second year law student at the University of Memphis Law School.
“I’m actually on track to study health law,” said Downing.
Her incoming class last year broke the mold at the more than 50 year law school.
Last year was the school's first ever majority female incoming class. This year's incoming class is dead even between women and men.
“I just think our culture is kind of shifting,” said Downing.
The same thing is happening at the University of Mississippi’s law school. Preliminary numbers show women make up 53% of the incoming class, that’s an 11% increase over last year.
“I think it has a lot to do with there are a lot of positive role models, female attorneys for women now,” said Lucie Brackin, the president-elect of the Memphis Bar Association.
Brackin points to women like Michelle Obama, women on the Supreme court and TV characters on television.
“And now we have “Bluff City Law” with Sydney Strait and hoping she’ll be a positive role model,” said Brackin.
Sydney Strait is one of the main characters on the new NBC law drama. More women in leadership positions at the university-level may also be leading to the increase of women enrolling at law schools.
Susan Duncan and Katharine Schafzin are respectively Ole Miss and the University of Memphis’ first ever female law school deans.
At the University of Mississippi, 10 of the 13 administrators are women. At the U of M all dean-level leadership positions are women and a majority of women are professors.
“I think that classes of women have seen that the people they are interviewing with are not 55-year-old men. They’re younger, they’re women,” said attorney Caren Nichol.
Caren Nichol became the first female president of a large law firm in Memphis. She was selected to lead the law firm Evans Petree in 2017.
“To be honest I felt like I was shocked that it was the first time,” said Nichol.
Nichol says she thinks a number of law schools are realizing diverse populations can really enhance the academic experience. Downing agrees.
“I think it’s extremely important because especially in Memphis the community we’re going to be serving out here is extremely diverse.”