Diversity in Law School
Racial/Ethnic Minority Applicants
We use the term diversity broadly to include all aspects of human differences, including but not limited to socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, geography, disability, and age.
Historically, minority group members have been underrepresented in the legal profession. The law school population (as well as the legal profession) does not reflect accurately the vibrant and expanding racial and ethnic population in our society. To promote diversity, law schools actively seek qualified African American, Latino, Asian, and Native American students, as well as other students of color. Law schools increasingly find that diversity within the classroom enriches the learning process for all students.
Why am I considered a minority applicant?
Law schools consider your ethnic or racial status to be whatever you indicate on your LSAT registration forms. This factor alone is not a guarantee of admission, but it helps admission committees form a more complete picture of who you are. They are interested in how your individual history has affected your life, including whatever disadvantages you may have overcome.
Is the LSAT biased against minorities?
The passages and questions on the LSAT go through a rigorous screening and pretesting process to make sure that the individual test items are not biased. The primary reason that minority test takers perform less well on the LSAT is lack of preparation. In addition, research indicates that minority group members, particularly African Americans, are more vulnerable to test anxiety than other test takers. The best way to avoid test anxiety is to prepare thoroughly for the LSAT by familiarizing yourself with the types of questions on the test and by taking disclosed (previously administered) tests. Take the entire test—not just a few sections at a time—under actual timed conditions.
Do law schools apply different admission criteria to minorities?
No. However, some law schools may take your race or ethnicity into account as one of many factors in a whole-file review. Each applicant may potentially offer something distinctive to a class—diversity being one factor among many. While LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs are important factors in admission decisions, they are not the only factors. Others may include a strong letter of recommendation or personal statement, work experience, or community service that demonstrates a special interest or strength of character, diversity status that may contribute to a robust exchange of ideas in the classroom and the law school community, graduate work or other specialized studies, and so on. All of these are factors that a law school may consider in determining if an applicant is a good fit for their law school. Law schools select from among the applicants who fall somewhere on a flexible continuum of their particular academic parameters.
What part should my race or ethnicity play in my personal statement?
Most law schools are genuinely interested in the overall diversity of their student body—but you must show how your race or ethnicity will contribute to the richness of the law school education of every student. It is not enough to simply state your ethnicity or even to describe your personal history as it has been affected by your ethnicity. A key strategy is to do thorough research on every law school to which you are applying and determine the diversity goals of each school. Structure your personal statement with a purpose and with these goals in mind. Keep in mind that you should follow any instructions on the application about what is expected in your personal statement.
Remember that diversity is broader than ethnicity, and ethnicity is not synonymous with adversity. Do not assume that your ethnicity is the only way in which you can add to the diversity of the student body; consider your entire life experience. Also, do not assume that ethnicity must be broached in stories of hardships and misfortune. However you convey it, you are well-advised to be sincere in relaying your authentic story. Anything less will come across as contrived to the reader and will not be to your benefit.
Why should I consider a career in law?
A law career provides a singular opportunity to effect change both on an individual level—by representing the interests of a client—and on a global level—by setting policy or establishing a precedent in the governmental or business arenas. Additionally, you will have spent approximately three years thinking critically, reading broadly, and debating forcefully, and these skills are worthwhile in most everything you do.
What actions are being taken to increase minority participation in law school and the legal profession?
Individual law schools and legal organizations have worked hard to assure continued progress toward alleviating the historic shortage of minority lawyers. For example, the Law School Admission Council established a Diversity Committee, which thus far has spent in excess of $5 million on projects designed to increase the number of minority men and women who attend law schools. The American Bar Association adopted a law school standard calling for specific commitments to provide full opportunities for members of minority groups. In addition, the ABA Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity and the Law School Admission Council created the Pipeline Diversity Directory in response to the critical need to increase diversity in the educational pipeline leading to the legal profession. The Association of American Law Schools also requires that member schools provide full opportunities in legal education for minorities and has programs to increase the number of minority faculty.
Although minority participation in law school and the legal profession has increased over the last three decades, more can and is being done to attract minority men and women to the profession. Outreach efforts by the legal system can and do counteract the shortage of minority lawyers.