HNBA: A Disturbing Trend in Law School Diversity Portends Serious Implications for U.S. Society

January 11, 2010

Washington, DC–A joint project of the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) and the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic at the Columbia University School of Law has resulted in data that shows a disturbing trend in law school diversity. See http://blogs.law.columbia.edu/salt.

While the results are not surprising, the project underscores that efforts to enhance diversity in law school enrollment have not been effective.  Until such time as the trend is reversed, the quality of legal education in the U.S. will remain impaired, as will access to the U.S. legal and justice system for many Americans.

In general, the data produced by the joint project show that while law school enrollment from 1993 to 2008 increased by close to 3,000 new admissions, admissions by African-Americans and Mexican-Americans decreased by 7.5% and 11.7%, respectively.  The issue is not a matter of qualifications, as the data indicate that the LSAT scores and GPAs of African-Americans and Mexican-Americans have markedly improved over the same period.  Equally disturbing are data that indicate that the number of applications from African-American and Mexican-American students has remained steady from 1990 to 2008.

“Particularly significant results of the study are the data that show that African-Americans and Mexican-Americans have much higher shut-out admission rates than Caucasian students.  So not only are admissions relatively decreasing for African-Americans and Mexican-Americans, they are more likely than not to get shut out of all the law schools to which they apply,” said HNBA National President Román D. Hernández.  “We knew these data have existed, but this latest review involving 2008 data is discouraging to say the least.  There is no finger pointing here.  We all need to work harder and our law schools need to reexamine admissions criteria.  The HNBA has addressed law schools accreditation standards criteria before, and we are going to revisit that issue,” said Hernández.