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Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Failing Upward



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Critics of racial preferences make the point that the supposed beneficiaries often suffer because they’re placed into competitive situations for which they are not adequately prepared, due to inadequate schooling, etc. The problem is obvious in higher education. It is also observable in the professional world:

Thanks to vigorous recruiting and pressure from corporate clients, black lawyers are well represented now among new associates at the nation’s most prestigious law firms. But they remain far less likely to stay at the firms or to make partner than their white counterparts.

A recent study says grades help explain the gap. To ensure diversity among new associates, the study found, elite law firms hire minority lawyers with, on average, much lower grades than white ones. That may, the study says, set them up to fail. …

Professor Sander found that very few blacks graduated from top-30 law schools with high grades.

Yet grades, according to many hiring partners and law students, are a significant criterion in hiring decisions, rivaled only by the prestige of the law school in question. For instance, Professor Sander found, “white law school graduates with G.P.A.’s of 3.5 or higher are nearly 20 times as likely to be working for a large law firm as are white graduates with G.P.A.’s of 3.0 or lower.”

The story for black students appears to be different. Black students, who make up 1 to 2 percent of students with high grades (meaning a grade point average in the top half of the class) make up 8 percent of corporate law firm hires, Professor Sander found. “Blacks are far more likely to be working at large firms than are other new lawyers with similar credentials,” he said.

But black lawyers, the study found, are about one-fourth as likely to make partner as white lawyers from the same entering class of associates.



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