Tracking the Progress of Black Enrollments at the Nation’s Highest-Ranked Law Schools

The nation’s leading law schools are where the top law firms in the nation recruit their associates. These law schools also produce the clerks for the nation’s Supreme Court judges. Tracking black progress at these educational institutions is an important barometer measuring how blacks are faring in reaching the top echelon of the legal profession.

Over the past decade only five of the nation’s 15 highest-ranked law schools showed an increase in their enrollment percentage of blacks. Ten of the 15 posted declines in black enrollments. Black enrollments at the law school at New York University climbed from 5.6 percent in 1997 to 8.6 percent in 2007. In raw numbers, black enrollments at the NYU law school increased from 74 in 1997 to 124 in 2007, an increase of 68 percent.

Dean Richard Revesz of the New York University law school told JBHE that “a diverse student body has been and continues to be a priority.” Dean Revesz says that a scholarship program for low-income students and extensive recruitment efforts at black colleges and universities are responsible, in part, for their success in increasing black enrollments.

Harvard University ranks second in increasing black enrollments over the past decade. The percentage of blacks in the student body at Harvard Law School increased by nearly two percentage points. There were 153 black students at Harvard Law School in 1997. In 2007 there were 190 black students enrolled at the law school, an increase of 24 percent.

Elena Kagan, dean of Harvard Law School, told JBHE, “We are seeing an ever stronger black applicant pool, which allows us to identify an increasing number of black students who we think will make Harvard Law School a better place. We are also doing quite well on our yield of admitted black students.”

The only other high-ranking law schools to show an increase in their percentage of black students over the past decade were Duke University, the University of Virginia, and Northwestern University.