Meera E. Deo, J.D., Ph.D.

The Honorable Vaino Spencer Chair | Professor of Law

Image - Professor Meera Deo

B.A., High Honors, Interdisciplinary Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 1992,
J.D., University of Michigan Law School, 2000
Ph.D., Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles, 1996
Member, California State Bar

Joined Southwestern: Summer 2021


Meera E. Deo is a national expert on legal education, racial representation, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is also Director of the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE), which houses the largest repository of law student data and is based at Indiana University-Bloomington. Before joining Southwestern, she was a tenured Professor of Law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. Professor Deo has also held previous visiting positions at Berkeley Law, UC Irvine School of Law, UCLA School of Law, UC Davis School of Law, and New College of Florida. She teaches Civil Procedure, Evidence, Law & Society, and Race & Law. Her research utilizes empirical methods to interrogate institutional diversity, affirmative action, and Critical Race Theory. Professor Deo's scholarship has been widely published in law reviews and peer-review journals and cited in numerous amicus briefs filed in the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2020, she was elected to the American Law Institute.

“My favorite part of law teaching is encouraging students to share their own perspectives. Listening and learning from one another, truly engaging with a diverse range of experiences, is how we make the law come alive.”

Professor Deo’s book, Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia (Stanford University Press, 2019), draws from her innovative Diversity in Legal Academia project, the first national empirical study of law faculty utilizing an intersectional framework. The book examines how race and gender affect interactions with faculty and students, tenure and promotion, work/life balance, institutional support, and other aspects of the personal and professional lives of law faculty. Professor Deo’s sobering findings expose ongoing raceXgender inequities. She also proposes structural solutions to improve legal education. 

In her ongoing empirical study, Pandemic Effects on Legal Academia, Professor Deo builds on findings from the book to analyze how the global pandemic affects scholarly productivity and the career success of vulnerable faculty, including caregivers, women of color, and untenured professors. Another research trajectory traces the evolution of affirmative action jurisprudence, utilizing data from LSSSE to propose improvements to law student recruitment and retention. Her theory-based scholarship also contributes to conversations involving antiracist language, intersectional inclusion, and raceXgender bias.

Professor Deo graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School before designing an Interdisciplinary Studies major in Comparative Cultures and earning a degree with High Honors from UC Berkeley. While a University of Michigan law student, she joined the landmark case of Grutter v. Bollinger as an Intervening-Defendant, working with the legal team as a student and attorney to support integration and affirmative action from discovery proceedings through trial, and ultimately at the U.S. Supreme Court. She practiced Civil Rights, Cyberspace, and First Amendment litigation with the ACLU National Legal Department in New York City as the William J. Brennan First Amendment Fellow. She then practiced law with a focus on policy and advocacy efforts as Director of the Breast Cancer Legal Project and Staff Attorney for Women’s Health at the California Women's Law Center in Los Angeles.

After practicing law, Professor Deo entered graduate school at UCLA to pursue a Ph.D. in Sociology. Her dissertation focused on the social capital benefits of membership in various student organizations, highlighting how peer mentorship, academic support, and a sense of belonging are critical to the success of law students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. The National Science Foundation (NSF), Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship, AccessLex Institute, Wolters Kluwer, and other local and national sponsors have supported her groundbreaking research. The Coalition for Asian Pacific American Law Faculty awarded her their 2018 Eric K. Yamamoto Award for demonstrating “outstanding promise.” She was a 2019 Scholar-in-Residence at Berkeley Law’s Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice. She was also the William H. Neukom Fellows Research Chair in Diversity and Law at the American Bar Foundation for the 2020-2021 academic year. Professor Deo has served as a Senate-appointed Member of the California Commission on Access to Justice, an empirical research consultant to both the ACLU of Southern California and the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), and Chair of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Section on Law and the Social Sciences.

Selected Achievements

Member, American Law Institute

William H. Neukom Fellows Research Chair in Diversity and Law, American Bar Foundation

Executive Committee Member, AALS Section on Law & Social Sciences

Executive Committee Member, AALS Section on Empirical Study of Legal Education & the Legal Profession

CAPALF Eric K. Yamamoto Emerging Scholar Award