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April 19 | Cipriani Wall Street | New York City



More Black Men Lawyers, But Racial Gap Remains

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 “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.”

Click here to read “Why So Few Blacks, Latinos at Med Schools?”

Click here to read “Is There a Black, Latino Doctor in the House?”

Click here to read “Did This Law Firm Discriminate Against Black Attorneys?”


  • Anonymous

    Why are there so few white lawyers working for the NAACP? Why so few white lawyers employed at MALDEF. Luke this needs an ATWG article! They clearly do not understand the benefits of diversity and how using a metrics based approach can help them achieve their diversity objectives. As you say what gets measured gets done!

    • paul hogans

      What does the NAACP have to do with the lack of diversity in the legal profession? As for white people being a part of the NAACP, they’re the ones who created it. The NAACP was started by White abolitionist in response to the lynching of Black Americans by Whites. As for the organization, it is not a Black organization. It is a civil rights organization that has more than a half million members dedicated to equal opportunity for all citizens regardless of color.

  • More to the point, why is it that if you are a minority and even so much as “look” Black (read, dark-skinned Latino or Native American or Pacific Islander) when you graduated law school fifteen years ago you are automatically presumed to be “still a law student” by people whenever they see you? I’m with Lawyers Without Borders. So far few people (one or two!) have realised that when you get to a territory whose laws you didn’t learn in law school in “your” state fifteen years ago, you have to “brush up” on the laws of THAT territory or country. Most people just assume that I’m still a law student! Being presumed to be 20 years younger than I am, is not “flattering” (if that was the intent) but insulting (which I really think is the intent, partnered with racism).

  • A major reason for the underrepresentation of minorities in the legal profession seems to be the legal profession’s hold on the Credit Check as a barrier to admission. Law school is expensive and for most, there is no way to pay for it other than drowning in student loans. (Even Native American tribal “assistance” for law school consisted of “assistance” with allegedly low-interest LOANS.) Unlike the other professions, which don’t bar you for being drowning in student loan debt when you apply for licensure, most states’ Bar admissions now require the applicant to be debt-free. They say that they “take each case of student loan debt on an individual basis” but in reality the legal profession GRILLS you about your student loans and other debt more than any other profession. I don’t think doctors have to be debt-free in order to get their medical licenses, and as someone who also holds a Secondary Math teaching license I know teachers don’t. Teachers only have to pass an FBI/DOJ fingerprint check – not come up with every place we’ve been and every place we’ve worked, no gaps, since we were 18 and we’d “better not be drowning in more debt than we could ever hope to make a dent in” as some of the more racist-assholes will put it.

    It’s as if, if you graduate law school drowning in debt to where nothing that requires a law degree would hire you, you have almost no choice except to go for a high school teaching license. That’s why so few minorities in the legal profession. Yes the world is a million times harder on minorities drowning in the same debt from law school than they are on our white-boy counterparts.

    • i’m not sure i’m following your point. you are actually saying that state bars will PROHIBIT/DENY licensure if the person in question is carrying a large amount of debt? what exactly is “too much” debt ? some arbitrary number? i’ll have to ask a recent grad i know for clarification on this, and consult my state’s bar association.

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