Phi Beta Cons

Will the Law School Implosion Give Us More Diversity?

Until just a few years ago, law school was a growth industry, but now it’s in free-fall. The old sales pitch that getting a JD would lead to good, high-paying work (or at least was a great resume builder) isn’t working because people have found out that it isn’t. Enrollments are plunging.

One law professor, Aaron Taylor of St. Louis University, sees a “diversity” benefit emerging, however. He argues in a recent Chronicle piece that the greatest drop in law school enrollments has been among “overrepresented” groups (whites and Asians), thus opening the door to students from “woefully underrepresented” groups, particularly blacks and Hispanics. While those groups comprise roughly 30 percent of the population, they are only 8.5 percent of the legal profession.

What always puzzles me about such arguments is why anyone should care about group-based statistics like that. If you need a good tax lawyer, you want to find the most capable one you can afford and his racial background won’t make the least bit of difference. I doubt that anyone who needs to hire a professional stops to worry about the percentages of this or that group.

Would the legal profession be improved if no groups were over- or under-represented? I can’t see how.

Professor Taylor advances some ideas for changing how law schools assess applicants and they might be good ones, but the real solution to the problem he thinks he has identified is to put an end to the gatekeeper function of law schools. Allow people to take the bar exam no matter where or for how long they have studied.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.


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