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Monday, November 20, 2017
Diversity in the Legal World
A cursory glance at the American Bar Association's demographic report for 2016 reveals a handful of alarming statistics. Take gender parity, for example. While law school enrollment amongst the sexes is close to equal (52.2% men, 47.8% women), a full 64% of practicing attorneys are men. When it comes to race and ethnicity, however, the inequity is astonishing. Fewer than 5% of practicing attorneys are African-American; only 4% are Hispanic.

Statistics almost always require context, except perhaps, when they are this stark. African-Americans make up roughly 13.3% of the U.S. population, and a staggering 45% of the U.S. prison population. Hispanics account for 16.7% of the U.S. population. Though racial and ethnic classifications carry their own inherent biases, some statistics speak for themselves. The roots of these disparities go far too deep for a short blog, but a few salient points bear discussion.

Income inequality in the U.S. skews along racial lines, meaning that college and law school are out of financial reach for many students of color. Because classes and races are so geographically segregated in American society, people from low income areas also have dramatically reduced access to the many tools that make college feasible-good schools, guidance counselors, and money for college preparation. And those are just the measurable tangibles. The psychology of poverty and oppression is crushing, and defined in stark opposition to the privilege and entitlement afforded to white Americans.

For African-American students looking to study law in cultural and social comfort, the offerings are meager; only six HBCU law schools are accredited by the American Bar Association. Not one of those is in California, the most populous U.S. state, by a long shot. Texas, with a population of close to 28 million, is home to one.

Access to justice is a fundamental marker of success and power. Prestige is a hallmark of the legal profession. Until people of color are adequately represented in the legal realm, law will remain a microcosm of society’s larger issues with racism, sexism and privilege.


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