The National Jurist - Spring 2017 - 13
Most diverse law schools
While many talk about the importance of diversity, minority
numbers are dropping at higher-tier law schools. By Mike Stetz
ames Douglas said he never wanted
to be a law professor. It wasn't even
on his radar until he noticed how
the law profession was evolving and
"I wanted to increase the number
of minority lawyers," he said. "That's
the only reason I'm a law professor."
Legal education needs diversity, said
Douglas, interim dean at Texas Southern
University - Thurgood Marshall School
of Law, which was ranked No. 2 on The
National Jurist's list of Most Diverse Law
Schools this year.
That's a good and worthy goal, no question. Go to a diverse law school, and you
get to interact with students from a wide
range of ethnicities, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. It's likely you will be a
better lawyer because of it.
But, it's becoming more challenging for
law schools to maintain diverse student
With fewer applicants, law schools are
having to dig deeper into their applicant
pools. That leaves many minorities out of
the mix, especially at higher-tier schools.
And critics argue some schools have maintained their diversity mix by admitting too
many students who will struggle on the bar
exam and have a hard time landing jobs.
Take Arizona Summit Law School, for
example. The Phoenix school is our Most
Diverse Law School this year. It rose from
No. 7 two years ago to No. 1 this year,
based on an even stronger mix of AfricanAmerican students (20 percent), Hispanic
students (18 percent) and Asian students (6
But the school has struggled with its bar
passage rate the past few years. In the Class
of 2016, only 25 percent who took the
Arizona bar exam passed it. That is down
from 96.7 percent in 2008.
While Arizona Summit's bar passage
decline is the most extreme, many law
schools have seen their rates drop. Most
agree that the drop is, in part, related to
schools accepting more at-risk students.
CUNy SCHOOL OF LAW welcomed its first class for a new part-time J.D. program
in the fall of 2015. The program opens up law school to a diverse population,
and students can balance families and careers while pursuing their education
over eight semesters and one summer.
Arizona Summit, for example, saw its median LSAT score drop from 151 in 2009 to
144 in 2014.
Arizona Summit is one of nine law
schools that reported median LSAT scores
at 145 or lower in 2015. Three of the
other schools are historically black colleges,
including Texas Southern University.
For people of color, bar passage has
always been a challenge.
"Unfortunately, law schools aren't
required to publish either their attrition
rates or their bar pass rates by race," said
David Frakt, chairman of the National
Advisor y Council for Law School
Transparency, a legal education watchdog
organization. "But from my own experience at two bottom-tier schools [Western
State College of Law and Barry University
Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law] and
from publicly available information, such as
state statistics from the California Bar, Texas
Bar and New York Bar, it is very clear that
minority students pass at far lower rates."
The NaTioNal JurisT
Texas Southern University and other
historically diverse schools point out that
minorities have never performed as well
on standardized exams. These schools were
founded to give minority students and
working class folks an opportunity to go to
law school. And one of their goals for their
graduates is not to land jobs at Big Law
firms but to work for the good of society,
as prosecutors, public defenders and public
interest lawyers. That's desperately needed
in a nation that's seeing substantial minority
growth, school officials say.
During the past 15 years, the number of
black lawyers has grown only 1.2 percent,
and the number of Hispanic lawyers has
increased by less than 1 percent.
Douglas said that the American Bar
Association (ABA) seems to be punishing
schools that take a risk and accept students
with lower LSAT numbers on the premise
that those same students will not pass the
bar exam. But this will hurt diversity.
"I don't think every law school should