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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Why Aren't Law Schools Admitting More Black Students?

Steinbuch 2National Jurist op-ed:  A Different Take On Why Law Schools Are Not Admitting More Black Students, by Robert Steinbuch (Arkansas-Little Rock):

I read the recent National Jurist article, Why aren’t law schools admitting more black students?, with great interest. The article demonstrates an unfortunate truth: the intersection of race and law-school admissions remain obscured by confusion over basic facts. I hope to bring some clarity to these matters here.

Let’s start with the explosive (and patently wrong) claim that recurs throughout the article’s first eight paragraphs: that black applicants are discriminated against in law school admissions. For example, the author poses the following inquiry and response: “Is it possible that law schools are discriminating against African-American applicants, even in this day and age when diversity and inclusion are such paramount goals? Law school leaders and admissions officers, no doubt, would swear up and down that is not the case. But the numbers tell a different story.”

No, they really don’t.  

For example, in data from 40 law schools gathered from their 2005-2007 admissions cycles, the median odds ratio on black compared to white admissions was 150 – meaning black applicants had far greater odds of admission than white applicants. At a large majority of these law schools, if you examine what we can call the ‘credential point’ where white applicant had a 10 percent chance of admission, comparable black applicants had a better than 80 percent chance of admission. Here’s the bottom line: the claim that law schools are generally biased against black applicants relative to white applicants is not only incorrect, it’s ridiculous. When black and white applicants with similar credentials apply to any given law school, black applicants are far more likely to gain admission than white applicants, and even more likely to be admitted when compared to Asian applicants. (The latter phenomenon is known in the literature as the ‘Asian Tax.’ A more apt label would be a ‘soft quota’ that caps Asian admissions to law schools.) ...

I’m reminded of the maxim in medicine that if you go to a neurologist, he’ll find a neurological problem, and if you go to a gastroenterologist, she’ll find a stomach issue. The idea, of course, is that professionals like to find solutions using their skills. I appreciate that some lawyers and law professors like to believe that the under-representation of African Americans in law, relative to their presence in the population, can be addressed through the law-school admissions process. This belief is mistaken.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2018/01/why-arent-law-schools-admitting-more-black-students.html

Legal Education | Permalink

Comments

It's a catch 22 for admissions departments. The ABA requires diversity in their rules, but if you accept weaker applicants (i.e., lower LSAT scores) to meet the diversity requirements then you risk lower bar pass rates. The ABA rules are in conflict.

Posted by: Beau Baez | Jan 25, 2018 8:18:13 AM

If law schools want to help minority students succeed in the legal profession, they need to use better teaching methods. Scott Fruehwald, How to Help Students from Disadvantaged Backgrounds Succeed in Law School, 1 Texas A & M Law Review 83 (2013).

Posted by: Scott Fruehwald | Jan 25, 2018 9:25:58 AM

There aren't enough qualified black applicants. End of story. Uneven inputs cannot be expected to produce even outputs.

There are a lot of uncomfortable and politically incorrect conversations to be had about why that is. If law schools lowered the bar any further for black applicants relative to whites and Asians, then the already unacceptable dropout and bar pass rates of black law students would only worsen. The problem needs to be addressed way earlier in life than the law school admissions process.

Posted by: Todd | Jan 25, 2018 10:13:12 AM

I wonder how many black applicants are not recieving at least one acceptance (one has to apply to get accepted)?

Mr. Steinbach also highlights what many suspect: "When black and white applicants with similar credentials apply to any given law school, black applicants are far more likely to gain admission than white applicants, and even more likely to be admitted when compared to Asian applicants."

The problem that needs to be addressed is how to equip minority youth to acheive at high levels and compete. Simply lamenting about the lack of X in Y job or educational program oversimplifies the problem and gets us nowhere.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 26, 2018 6:48:41 AM

Potential minority students do not have all of the information regarding the value of a law degree. According to NALP, minority law school graduates from the class of 2016 had a median salary of $68,000. A recent study proved that minority law school graduates earn a substantial wage premium.* Although white law school graduates earn more than minority students, earnings premiums for all groups are increasing and converging. If law schools provided more information to potential minority applicants, the schools would receive more applications from minorities. More importantly, law schools need to explain that law is the only profession where you can make a lot of money and promote social justice. Computer programming pays a lot of money but does very little for society. Doctors also make a lot of money, but all they do is prescribe a drug. Lawyers make a lot of money and improve lives. Lawyers prevent indigent individuals from being evicted by their landlords, protect immigrants from the Trump administration, and protect the rights of individuals against police abuses.

*https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0144818817300388

Posted by: information | Jan 26, 2018 12:17:42 PM

"Although white law school graduates earn more than minority students"

Nope. Learn to read the chart you cite from. Minority grads made a median of $68,350 while the VERY NEXT LINE shows that nonminority grads made a median of $65,000. Here's the cite: https://www.nalp.org/uploads/Classof2016_NationalSummaryReport.pdf, page 1.

Of course, the overall median of $65,000 for the Class of 2016 is far beneath the real dollar median of $83,446 for the Class of 2008 when that year's NALP report came out in 2009 but whatever. For that matter, it's well below the real dollar median of $75,832 for the Class of 2001 when the NALP reported it in 2002. Hell, the $40,000 nominal median for the Class of 1990 works out to $73,044 in real dollars today. If we go aaaaalllll the way back to the NALP report for 1985, well, its nominal median of $27,400 works out to $62,084 today, assuming a mid-1986 report date. Ouch.

"More importantly, law schools need to explain that law is the only profession where you can make a lot of money and promote social justice. "

At least until PROSPER passes and ends both GradPLUS and PSLF. That is a caveat law schools should really be obliged to disclose.

"Doctors also make a lot of money, but all they do is prescribe a drug. Lawyers make a lot of money and improve lives."

Yes, truly doctors do not improve lives. Sure.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 26, 2018 11:10:25 PM