The legal profession tips left (very), but it turns out that the legal academy is even further left than the professional ranks from which it is drawn, as Jonathan Adler comments:
A new paper by Adam Bonica (Stanford University), Adam S. Chilton (University of Chicago), Kyle Rozema (Northwestern University) and Maya Sen (Harvard University), “The Legal Academy’s Ideological Uniformity,” provides some answers. Their bottom line: The legal academy is significantly more liberal than the legal profession, which is notable because the legal profession itself is more liberal than the public at large. ...
I’ve certainly argued that the ideological uniformity of legal academia affects teaching and scholarship (most recently here). The authors of this study suggest that it could also affect the political relevance and influence of law professors. They write:
… the ideological tilt of the legal academy has potentially broad implications. For instance, because law professors are overwhelmingly liberal, groups of law professors advocating for liberal positions can easily be marginalized. For example, after Jeff Sessions was nominated as Attorney General in 2016, over a thousand law professors signed a letter opposing his confirmation. This letter was criticized by some as simply representing the views of the left leaning legal academy . . . . To assess … these criticisms, we match the signatories of the letter to our sample of law professor ideology, and find that only 4% of the signatories that appear in our data are conservative. This raises the question of whether the reception to the letter would have been different had more conservative law professors signed the letter. Although we have no way to answer this question, the endeavor might have been given more credence had more conservative professors participated in the letter: observers might have been less likely to expect Republican-leaning law professors to oppose Sessions ideologically, thus making such criticisms more powerful and effective. We argue that this example illustrates that the legal academy’s ideological uniformity limits its political credibility.
One could extend this analysis to current controversies at state universities, such as proposed measures to curtail tenure or limit the activities of legal clinics and academic centers at state universities. Appeals to “academic freedom” are less convincing when the only ones in a position to benefit from such principles sit on one side of the aisle.
Writing in opposition to a proposed measure in North Carolina that would prohibit the University of North Carolina School of Law’s Center for Civil Rights from engaging in litigation, Gene Nichol suggested the center’s critics are “nakedly ideological” because they would have no problem with law school programs enlisting students in efforts to protect gun rights or religious liberty. He might be right, but how would we know? It’s not as if UNC’s law school has any such programs, or even a critical mass of right-leaning faculty members. I agree with much that Nichol has to say in his piece, but I also suspect his arguments would be more persuasive to a Republican-dominated state legislature if there were more ideological diversity on UNC’s law faculty and within the law school’s academic programming.