I am honored to have the opportunity to update my remarks on A Dean's Perspective on Diversity, Socioeconomics, The LSAT, And The U.S. News Law School Rankings as part of a panel at today's virtual conference on Black Lawyers Matter: Strategies To Enhance Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion (more here):
Leonard M. Baynes (Dean, Houston)
Robert B. Ahdieh (Dean, Texas A&M)
Paul L. Caron (Dean, Pepperdine)
Robert Morse (Chief Data Strategist, U.S. News & World Report)
Victor Quintanilla (Indiana)
Kellye Testy (President & CEO, Law School Admission Council)
Karen Sloan (Law.com), Black Lawyers Matter: The Symposium:
The numbers tell the story of a legal profession divided by race. Less than 8% of first-year law students in 2019 were Black.
In California, 53% of Black bar examinees passed between 2009 and 2018. That figure was 80% for white examinees.
The percentage of 2019 Black law graduates who found jobs requiring a law degree within 10 months was 62%, compared to 80% for white law graduates. And in 2020, white shoe law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore had no Black partners.
“The bottom line is we have to do better. The nation is becoming more diverse, and in Texas and a lot of places, college students are almost majority minority. So we’re going to have to do better because that’s ultimately going to be feeder group. Those are going to be our future lawyers. We can’t just rely on what we’ve done before. We need to treat this with the same degree of urgency that we treated the pandemic.”
That’s what University of Houston Law Center Dean Leonard Baynes told me last week when I rang him up to discuss a day-long, online symposium the school is co-hosting with Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law on Friday, October 30. The free program, called Black Lawyers Matter: Strategies to Enhance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion boasts a stellar lineup of speakers including U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee; Harvard Law School’s David Wilkins; Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht; U.S. News & World Report Chief Data Strategist Bob Morse; and Law School Admission Council President Kellye Testy.
The symposium’s panels take a comprehensive look at bolstering the number of Black law students and lawyers. The five panels examine each step in that process, from increasing the pipeline of black law school applicants and the role that law schools housed at Historically Black Colleges and Universities play, to corporate and law firm hiring and diversifying the ranks of judicial clerks and law faculty. Baynes said that comprehensive approach to the issue, as well as the laser focus on Black law students and lawyers, is something he hasn’t seen before in a program centered on diversity and inclusion. ...
The goal for the program, which had already drawn nearly 1,000 registrants when Baynes and I spoke last week, is for participants to come away with some concrete steps they can take to improve diversity and inclusion at their own institutions, and to start a long-term dialogue on these issues. Baynes said he hopes that the ongoing protests over police violence and racial inequality have created an inflection point for the legal profession.
“We can’t just rely on what we’ve done before,” he said. “We need to treat this with the same degree of urgency that we treated the pandemic.”