Law Schools May Lose Accreditation If They Fail to Show a Commitment to Racial Diversity

Over the past decade, overall enrollments in law schools nationwide has increased by about 6 percent. But during the period, black enrollments have declined by about 2 percent. Furthermore, the number of blacks who applied to law school this past year dropped by 8 percent. A year ago, the number of black applicants to law school decreased by 6 percent.  

In response to the decrease in racial diversity at the nation’s law schools, a unit of the American Bar Association has approved new guidelines that would require member law schools to demonstrate they are taking steps to increase the racial diversity of their student bodies and faculties. If they fail to take these steps the law schools would risk losing their accreditation from the ABA. The new guidelines will be presented to the ABA’s House of Delegates for approval at the annual meeting this summer.

The new guidelines require law schools to take “concrete action to provide full opportunities for the study of law and entry into the profession by members of underrepresented groups, particularly racial and ethnic minorities. Law schools must demonstrate a commitment to having a student body that is diverse with respect to gender, race, and ethnicity.”  

The guidelines also state that law schools located in states where race-sensitive admissions are banned are not exempt from the standards. Law schools in these states will be expected to participate in outreach programs to black and other minority students, advertise faculty openings in black-oriented publications, offer scholarships geared to disadvantaged groups or conduct other programs to increase racial diversity of their faculties and student bodies.

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.