It is not entirely in jest that Susan Rittenhouse, University of Maryland Law School class of '76, says she's looking for a husband to cook and clean house for her so she can devote full time to her legal career.
At age 30, Nancy Frame, married and the mother of two children, is in her third and final year of law school here at Maryland and an editor of the Law Review. Upon graduation,she will join the prestigious firm of Ober Grimes & Shriver and become one of the relatively few women to crack thesex barrier in this city's establishment law offices.
For Paula Chester, who graduated from law school here last semesster, there is no room in her future plans for marriage or children. "I want to make money," she says. "That's what I want to do."
These three women illustrate a dramatic shift in the pattern of law school enrollments over the last decade - a pattern that shows a sharp and unprecedented increase in the number of women law students.
Ten years ago, fewer than 5 per cent of the law students here were women; this year it is 33 per cent, and 39 per cent of the first-year class that enrolled last August were women.
According to the American Bar Association, the number of women in law schools across the country rose tenfold between 1965 and 1975' from 2,537 to 26737. In percentages, that is an increase from 4 per cent to 23 per cent of the total law school enrollments.
Figures vary from school to school and region to region, but the trend is omnipresent. Women constituted 25 per cent of the first-year students admitted to Harvard Law School last fall, up from 4 per cent in the fall of 1967. Women account for 39 per cent of the first-year class at Georgetown Law School this fall, and 44 per cent at American University Law School.
"I think this has terrific implications, both for the legal profession and for the law schools," said Barbara Allen Babcock, a 1963 graduate of Yale Law School and currently a professor at Stanford University Law School in California.
"Rather than being outsiders about to enter a hostile profession, the women who are now in law schools, because of their greater numbers, are finding it to be a full and satisfying experience," Babcock said.
"Within the next decade, we'll get to the point where a 'lady lawyer' is not an oddity. Women will be able to go on and be leaders in the profession in a way that was not possible before."
Sylvia Law, an associate professor at New York University Law School and a 1968 graduate of that institution, recalled that when she was a law student, "sexism in the classroom was rampant and unquestioned."
"There were lots of sexist hypotheticals," she said. "The victim was always a women and the professional was always a man . . .
But with the female enrollment at NYU Law School now at 40 per cent, may of the sexist stereotypes have fallen by the wayside, Law said. Some changes and adjustments, she said are probably inevitable as an increasing number of women enter the legal profession.
"The legal profession has always put a high premium on being able to work 80 a week. I think as society moves towards a more equitable sharing of responsibility for children, the profession will have to make some kind of response."
For now, however, most of the nation's top-level establishment law firms remain male preserves. Although entry is not impossible for women, neither is it easy.
"It's still difficult for the young women to crack the power structure of Washington," said Gordon A. Christenson, dean of the law school at American University. "We've got to do better than we're doing."
"It's still a problem, but every year it gets better," said Emerson Spies, dean of the University of Virginia Law School.
"A few years ago," Spies said, "the attitude was, "Hell, they're just going to get married and have children anyway. We can't waste our time with them.' Now, employers are becoming educated as to the facts, just as the law schools have become educated."
At Virginia, he said, 93 of the 360 members of the first-year law class are women."Ten years ago, you might have found 15 in a class. Twenty years ago, it would have been two or three.
"They're a very vital part of our law school, and a very good part, I might add."
There are indications that at some law schools, women are beginning to outshine the men.
Dean Christenson of American University said that the pool of women applicants for admission to his law applicants for admission to his law school last fall was superior to the pool of men applicants.Thus, he said, a higher percentage of the women who applied were admitted.
At Maryland's law school last year, women dominated the moot court competitions with an all-female team winning an invitational tournament at the College of William and Mary.
"About the only generalization you can make about these women is that they want to be lawyers," said Michael J. Kelly, dean of the Maryland law school.
"Some of them are going into the traditional large corporate firms. They're public defenders, they're in prosecutors' offices. There don't seem to be any significant trends that women are concentrating in any one area of the law."
Susan Rittenhouse, who graduated last June, is now working in the corporate financial services department of Mercantile Safe Deposit and Trust Co. here.
"I found that criminal law is not only demoralizing but also dull," she said. "Some of the most interesting work is in the corporate financial area."
Paula Chester, who graduated last semester, said she'll probably accept an offer from the Securities and Exchange Commisssion in Washington.
Answering a question few men lawyers are asked, as far as marriage and family are concerned, she said:
"I'm pretty much leaning towards never getting married, I've become very independent and I don't want to lose it. Most men want some kind of dependence. They want you to be supportive of their careers."
Third-year law student Nancy Frame, however, has found her husband to he helpful. "He's been very supportive," she said. "He's had to learn to cook." Her children and many of her neighbors were emore of a problem, she said.
"The neigbors never say it, but they're sure you neglect your children. My eight-year-old daughter asks me why I am not like the other mothers who stay at home. I try to explain to her that I was an 'other mothe' for a long time and I didn't like it at all . . . I could easily have gotten married and had my children and bowled once a week and not known why I was restless and unhappy."
While the majority of women entering law schools do so directly from college, many are coming back after several years of marriage and children.