Is the lack of Black lawyers in the United States cause for concern? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, although Blacks account for only 13 percent of the U.S. population, 40 percent of all prisoners in the United States are Black.
This lack of representation extends beyond the criminal-justice system into corporate America as well. Once Blacks enter the legal field, they are disproportionately underrepresented. Only 4 percent of partners in private practices are people from traditionally underrepresented groups, while in corporate America, only 9.1 percent of general counsel are people from traditionally underrepresented groups. These examples of racial disparity stress the need for more legal representation within the Black community.
There is evidence of small progress, however. A recent survey conducted by the “Journal of Blacks in Higher Education” (JBHE) revealed that Black men are narrowing the gap between themselves and Black women in law-school enrollments.
The analysis found that Black women make up 61.7 percent of today’s Black enrollments, compared with 64.3 percent five years ago. Black men represent the majority of Black enrollments at six of the nation’s top law schools, compared with only three five years ago.
More survey results:
- Black women students are enrolled at 25 of the top 50 law schools, compared with 33 of the top 50 five years ago
- Black women represent 70 percent or more of all Black enrollments in seven leading schools, compared with nine leading schools five years ago
- Black women represent 63.2 percent of Black enrollments at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), virtually even with 63.4 percent five years ago
Black women still dominate their counterparts in the legal profession. The 61.7 percent of Black women who comprise the total Black enrollment in the nation’s 50 highest-ranked law schools is nearly 15 percent higher than for all women enrollment in law school.
However, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University, law schools nationwide remain predominantly white and the number of Black enrollments has been stagnant over the past 15 years. Additionally, research from the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) indicates that since 2001, only 7 percent of U.S. law students are Black, compared with 70 percent of law schools enrolling white students.
As the United States becomes an increasingly diverse nation, the lack of Black legal professionals is cause for major concern, New York Law School’s Prof. Elizabeth Chambliss told blackpressusa.com: “The low level of Black representation in the profession may discourage promising Black students from considering law and limit Black lawyers’ chances to find mentors and role models within the law. And, to the extent that Black lawyers are more likely than others to be concerned with racial justice, discrimination, community development, and the like, the dearth of Black lawyers contributes to an already unequal access to lawyers in the United States.”