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Slight Increase in Law School Diversity

In 2003, minorities made up just one-fifth of all law students and just over one-quarter in 2012, according to the American Bar Association. This statistic points out that the legal education system still has a long way to go if it wants to mirror the diversity of the country, according to The National Law Journal. Minorities accounted for 37 percent of the population in 2012 and the U.S. Census Bureau said that whites will no longer be a majority by 2043.

“It’s a problem. Some people want to act like it doesn’t exist, but it does exist,” said Patricia Rosier, president of the National Bar Association. The National Bar Association is the largest bar organization for African-American lawyers. “We’re not there yet. I don’t even know that we’re halfway there. But we’re making progress.”

The problem was illustrated in the video “33,” which was produced by a group of African-American students from the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law. The title is for the 33 African-American students at the school out of the 1,100 enrolled.

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“I am so tired of being on this campus every day and having to plead my humanity, essentially, to other students,” one female student says in the video. “I feel like an outsider constantly. I don’t feel at my own school that I can solely focus on being a student.”

The associate dean of institutional diversity and inclusiveness at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Catherine Smith, said, “If you are going to diversify the student body, you need an environment that’s supportive and recognizes people’s differences. There’s a whole chicken-and-egg debate about that. Which issue do you tackle first — diversity in admissions or campus climate?”

At law schools across the country, Hispanics have witness the most growth. They made up 5.7 percent of all law students in 2003, but that number climbed to 8.1 percent in 2012. This is an increase of 2,640 students. In the previous couple of years, the percentage of Asian law students held steady at 7 percent.

John Nussbaumer, an associate dean at Thomas M. Cooley Law School analyzed a decade worth of LSAT scores and admission trends in 2011. His results found a correlation between acceptance rates and higher scores.

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“It really all boils down to the LSAT and how a school treats those scores,” Nussbaumer said. “If schools are willing to sacrifice a few in the U.S. News & World Report rankings race and admit students with lower LSAT scores, we might see an improvement. On the other hand, I don’t see a lot of motivation for schools to do that, since they face a lot of heat if they drop in the rankings.”

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