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Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Making Law School More Accessible
Last month, I wrote about the diversity problem in law schools. In a statistical nutshell, here's one example of the problem. While Hispanics and African-Americans make up just under 20% of the U.S. population respectively, law school enrollment for each group is around 7%. Not all of those students graduate and go into the profession, where there is an even greater void of minority practitioners.
The Law School Admission council developed the discoverlaw.org program designed to provide mentors and information to aspiring students of color. But in California, six prominent law schools and 24 community colleges are taking diversity a step further.
Beginning this week, the law schools at UC Davis, UC Irvine, University of San Francisco, Santa Clara, Loyola and the University of Southern California will begin a partnership with two dozen community colleges statewide in order to provide tutoring, mentoring, counseling and networking opportunities for aspiring law students.
The plan, sponsored by the State Bar of California's Council on Access & Fairness opens up opportunities to students at the community college level who often fall outside the privileged class of mainstream law school students. Easier admission requirements and affordable tuition attracts students who are not traditionally on the law school track.
Significantly, community colleges tend to have far greater numbers of working class students and students of colors. Law schools are notoriously thin on these two groups-something which changes the shape of the country's practitioners.
Since community colleges traditionally offer just two-year degrees, the program will necessarily capture students in their early years of college. Planning ahead academically is essential to getting into a good law school.
Arguably, the move is a positive symbolic gesture by the law schools involved. They are recognizing that elite four-year institutions aren't the only viable sources for top law student talent. And that's a good thing for the profession.
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