Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Nation Excoriates Law Schools for Their Treatment of Minorities

While these issues have been raised before, I have not seen stronger language in previous articles.

Law Schools Are Failing Students of Color by Erin Thompson.


"If these minority applicants succeed, they could change the balance of power in American society. If they fail, they will find themselves crushed under a lifetime of debt. But few are aware that they are taking this enormous gamble in a rigged game."

"On average, minority students end up in lower-ranked law schools, which they pay more to attend than white students, resulting in higher debt burdens. Minority law graduates have lower bar-exam-passage rates, employment rates, and income levels."

"Legal education has failed and will continue to fail minorities. . . .  the system loads many of them with staggering debt before killing their hopes, leaving them hanging from the very bootstraps they had hoped to use to rise."

The reason for low minority presence at elite law schools: "Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores. Minority and underprivileged students have consistently had lower average LSATs than white and wealthier test takers, even when other ways of measuring their abilities and achievements did not show a difference. There has been much debate about the causes of this score gap. The expense of the preparation courses that teach LSAT-taking skills is certainly one reason. Others suggest that the test itself has hidden racial biases, since it calls for analyses that might be performed differently by those with different backgrounds."  "Such a debt is a far heavier burden for minorities, since the lists of schools with the highest proportion of them and of those with the lowest percentage of graduates employed in full-time legal jobs show considerable overlap."

"In his recent book Law Mart: Justice, Access, and For-Profit Law Schools, law professor Riaz Tejani dissects the way low-ranked law schools market themselves to students with low LSAT scores by promising to provide “access to justice.” Accepting students who will largely fail to get legal jobs in the name of allowing them the opportunity to access a legal education is, Tejani claims, symptomatic of a neoliberal model of legal education, which offers “'social inclusion'” at a steep price “'devoid of social protectionism.'”

"Minority students generally pay more for the privilege of going to these lesser schools, again thanks to the LSAT. Schools offer merit scholarships to students with high scores in order to increase their rankings. Lower-scoring students pay full sticker price and so, in essence, fund those scholarships, which tend to go to a wealthier, less diverse group of students in what some critics have dubbed a reverse Robin Hood effect. "

"The LSAT score gap means that American law schools have developed a kind of educational apartheid: Minorities disproportionately end up at lesser law schools."

Why would law schools do this: "The profits to be made from marginal students are significant, since tuition hardly varies between law schools, regardless of their quality."

What effect does this have: "The average graduate will have taken on more than $100,000 in debt."  "Even those who went to law school to help members of their community regularly find themselves unable to afford to do so—if they want to meet their monthly loan payments."

"Solutions are not simple, but change is clearly needed in areas ranging from admissions standards and law-school coursework to the nature of the bar exam itself—and that undoubtedly only begins to touch on the deeper biases embedded in the system."

"Imagine, then, what a difference more minority judges might make. Unless the current system of education changes, however, that difference will remain a figment of the legal imagination."

(Scott Fruehwald)

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