Decline in Minority Enrollment Alarms Florida’s Law Schools

Denise-Marie Balona, Orlando Sentinel, June 25, 2011

Law schools in Florida have struggled for years to draw more minorities into legal fields long dominated by white men.

Yet despite recruitment drives and other efforts to boost their enrollment, the numbers at some colleges have remained stagnant or have fallen off.

That troubles scholars and college administrators as Florida becomes more and more diverse.

Soaring tuition, tougher admission requirements and other factors have discouraged many minorities from seeking law degrees.

At the University of Florida, black enrollment at the state’s largest public law school dropped 10 percent from fall 2006 to fall 2010, the national Law School Admission Council reported last week.

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There’s a growing demand for minority attorneys, as many members of the public seek lawyers in criminal and civil cases who look like them and can relate to them through cultural backgrounds and life experiences.

In addition, law firms want to diversify so they can better compete globally and build trial teams that can make effective cases before racially diverse juries.

A fairness issue

Robert Jerry, dean of UF’s law school, worries that trust in the criminal-justice system among minorities will further erode as the growing population of blacks and Hispanics questions the effectiveness and fairness of a legal system headed primarily by white judges and lawyers.

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“If the legal profession does not appear to be broadly representative of our nation’s population, then I’m concerned people will lose confidence in how the justice system is administered,” Jerry said. “And if that happens, the very fabric of our democracy could be in peril.”

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Members of Congress were so concerned by a national decline in black students several years ago that they ordered an investigation of the issue through the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The agency issued a report in late 2009 that partly blamed the fact that blacks and Hispanics are generally less likely to go to college. They also tend to have lower undergraduate grade-point averages and scores on the Law School Admission Test–key factors for law-school admission.

The report doesn’t address the elimination of affirmative-action programs in some states, including Florida, although some critics argue those changes have hurt law-school diversity.

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  • Dave

    The report doesn’t address the elimination of affirmative-action programs in some states, including Florida, although some critics argue those changes have hurt law-school diversity.

    Unless there is more recent legislation, affirmative-action was eliminated in Florida during the Jeb Bush administration through an initiative called Florida One. At that time, minority-enrollment at the State’s flagship school, UF, declined sharply. Since then, administrators have found a way to circumvent the State’s AA ban and return Black and Hispanic enrollment to pre-Florida One levels (the minority students didn’t all of a sudden get smarter).

    As for the recent decline in minority enrollment; my best guess is that the declining job prospects and shrinking salaries for law school graduates has dissuaded some potential black applicants from pursuing a law degree. Even with the full-tuition scholarship that most Blacks receive, three years with no salary to do a miserable job is hardly worth it. And take it from someone who knows, Whites should follow suit.

  • Kingoldby

    ”many members of the public seek lawyers in criminal and civil cases who look like them and can relate to them through cultural backgrounds and life experiences.”

    So, it’s okay to want to deal with people who look like me and have a shared cultural background? Or is that just for everyone on the planet except for whites?

  • Dawesy

    “the very fabric of our democracy could be in peril.” I’m still laughing hysterically about that one.

  • Anonymous

    “There’s a growing demand for minority attorneys, as many members of the public seek lawyers in criminal and civil cases who look like them and can relate to them through cultural backgrounds and life experiences.” Are there proof for this nonsensical statement. More than likely, more fantasy from holier than thou whites.

  • Anonymous

    Average LSAT scores have increased in all law schools due to the increase in unemployed undergrads. Too keep up, all law schools have had to cut back on black admits in order to not jeopardize their enrollment numbers.

    Back in 2002 a score of 165 (90th percentile) for Whites was a ticket to to an elite law school. Now, a 165 gets you a small scholarship at a decent State school.

  • Anonymous

    “There’s a growing demand for minority attorneys, as many members of the public seek lawyers in criminal and civil cases who look like them and can relate to them through cultural backgrounds and life experiences.”

    – Isn’t this an argument against diversity? If we can only learn from or be helped by people ‘who look like us,’ isn’t that segregation? Isn’t this making the case that whites should only have white lawyers too?

  • Question Diversity

    There’s a growing demand for minority attorneys, as many members of the public seek lawyers in criminal and civil cases who look like them and can relate to them through cultural backgrounds and life experiences.

    That’s news to me. Every time a black athlete gets in trouble, he always hires a white defense lawyer, from what I see. Any demand for non-white lawyers from non-white clients can probably be explained by the public defender system, many black law school grads unlucky enough to get AA sinecures at big firms have to slum in the PD office for awhile because they’re too incompetent to do anything else.

  • Anonymous

    “There’s a growing demand for minority attorneys, as many members of the public seek lawyers in criminal and civil cases who look like them”

    Translation. Not enough public defenders to defend “flash mobbers” from white opression.

  • WR the elder

    God forbid that they should just try to provide competent lawyers.

    “If the legal profession does not appear to be broadly representative of our nation’s population, then I’m concerned people will lose confidence in how the justice system is administered,” Jerry said. “And if that happens, the very fabric of our democracy could be in peril.”

    If the legal profession does become broadly representative our our nation’s population, I for one will fear for our liberties and will lose any confidence that justice will prevail. Imagine a legal profession packed with Sotomayers.

  • Anonymous

    “Soaring tuition, tougher admission requirements and other factors have discouraged many minorities from seeking law degrees.” No problem, subsidize the tuition and lower the standards. Oh that has already been done. Maybe not all things are equal, that some races don’t gravitate to this profession. A similar statement could be said about engineering and the sciences, dominated by Asians.

  • Anonymous

    “There’s a growing demand for minority attorneys, as many members of the public seek lawyers in criminal and civil cases who look like them and can relate to them through cultural backgrounds and life experiences.” Does this mean attorneys of other groups don’t have the skills to represent blacks? And that those black-oriented skills supercede the written laws? Black unwritten laws and the one written laws for all others? I find the the reference to “members of the public seek lawyers … who look like them…” particularly offensive. That is the very definition of racism and insensitivity to diversity. And if the commentary was for “whites to seek lawyers who look like them…”, it would never past editoral muster unless it was with severe criticism.

  • Eric

    “If the legal profession does not appear to be broadly representative of our nation’s population, then I’m concerned people will lose confidence in how the justice system is administered,” Jerry said. “And if that happens, the very fabric of our democracy could be in peril.”

    Another threat of black riots if they don’t get catered to.

  • Anonymous

    Yep, that’s what we need – more diversity so we can have more verdicts like the O. J. case. I served on 2 criminal juries which featured black defendants. In both cases, black jurists refused to convict despite the strong evidence. I asked one black lady what she didn’t believe of the evidence presented.

    “oh, I don’t know. I just don’t think he’s guilty”. These consumate racists are so predictable. Black is always right; white is wrong. Always!

  • kgb

    Soaring tuition, tougher admission requirements and other factors have discouraged many minorities from seeking law degrees.

    At the University of Florida, black enrollment at the state’s largest public law school dropped 10 percent from fall 2006 to fall 2010, the national Law School Admission Council reported last week.

    Thank you, Jeb Bush!

  • rjp

    There’s a growing demand for minority attorneys ….

    Nobody wants a black attorney. Most of them just end up like Michelle Obama, unlicensed.

  • BLACK SWAN

    My thoughts:

    IF Affirmative Action is good, and if those accepted into Med School and Law School are really qualified, but were denied entrace due to white privilege, good ol boy networking or the legacy of slavery, then after the JD and MD letters should be “AA”.

    That’s right. Here is doctor LeRoy Carver Washington, MD/AA. Let us see how many patients flock to his office. He had what it takes to get into and finish Med school AND he fought off evil white man racism to become a doctor!

    Put AA after any degree earned by anyone who benefited from Affirmative Action. BS/AA, MS/AA Phd/AA. Think of the higher salary they would get ! Think of the status. Against all odds and against institutional white male racism, this fine upstanding black man/women beat the odds and is now a Lawyer.

    Second, large law firms need and want black-skinned lawyers. Not to do the work, but to make their brochures look better. Show the 20 partners with the 2 African Lawyers in there.

    They don’t have to do anything. They are there to get black accounts, black clients and black support. They can sit in their office, collecting $250,000 a year with a 22 year old single white blonde secretary while a room full of white guys down the hall do all the work. That is already happening in numerous large firms that deal with large government contracts. The big black buck lawyers are for show.

    That is what we have in a President. Obama is a black figure head. Does he actually DO anything? Notice all the people who DO anything are white men. Clever.

    That was and is the goal of the NAACP and Civil Rights movement. Access to white women and enslave the white male to do all the work for the new plantation owner…the black man.

  • crystal

    The reason why there are fewer Blacks in law schools is because there are fewer jobs for lawyers. Unless you are the top of your class at an elite law school, the days of the six figure starting salary first job is over. I live in Tennessee and even Vanderbilt law graduates had difficulty finding their first job.

  • SNAviatrix

    Since doctors were mentioned…

    Isn’t it funny how all the rich black celebrities have white doctors? The only one who had a black doctor was Michael Jackson, and look what happened to him.

  • Anonymous

    If defendents see cases as “racist” or “unfair” because the judges and lawyers are mostly white, that means that the defendents are being racist for making judgements based upon the skin color of the court officials rather than their actions. Maybe all those involved in court cases should wear bags over their heads.