Swethaa Ballakrishnen is the first full-time UCI Law faculty member to receive an NSF grant. UCI Law

Swethaa S. Ballakrishnen, assistant professor of law and co-director, Center for Empirical Research on the Legal Profession at the UCI School of Law is the principal investigator of a team awarded a $511,230 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to fund a project titled: “Diversity and Networking in Law School: Are Law Students from Diverse Backgrounds Disadvantaged?” Ballakrishnen is the first full-time UCI Law faculty member to receive an NSF grant.

Ballakrishnen is joined on the project by co-principal investigators Prof. Anthony Paik of University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Carole Silver, professor of Global Law & Practice at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law; and Steven Boutcher, executive officer of the Law and Society Association and senior research fellow at the Institute for Social Science Research at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Networking is considered a key component of the law school experience and will lead to success in law school and career development. However, students from diverse backgrounds – race, gender, sexual orientation and class – may not have the same level of access to “resource-rich” social networks in law school. These “network inequalities” may shape the value of legal education across different groups of students and impact student experiences and outcomes.

This study will examine the ways networking inequality affects the value of legal education and whether these inequalities can account for differential experiences and outcomes across the diverse categories of students. The focus of the project is to study inequality in law schools and early legal careers. These findings may provide opportunities to mitigate existing inequities and facilitate more equal outcomes within the legal profession.

About UCI’s Brilliant Future campaign: Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The School of Law plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu/school-of-law/.