There is increasing concern about enrollment decline of African-American male students in higher education and specifically Law Schools. Speaking in Washington, D.C at the Congressional Black Caucus forum last week, Chris Brown, General Motors (GM) Vice President General Counsel for North America, said there is need for diversity in the legal profession both in schools and law firms.
He said diversity is part and parcel of GM policy. “General Motors was the first corporation to have a minority supplies program and a minority dealer program”, he added.
At the same event, which was part of the 37th Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus, U.S. Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Chairman of the House Ethics Committee, said this is a significant issue not only in the practice but also as a role model issue.
It was pointed out that many minority students are being admitted to Law Schools unprepared and that race-based admissions have been set to harm minority students by setting them up for failure.
Ms. Pauline A. Schneider of American Bar Association reported that in 1997/8, a total of 9,800 African-Americans were enrolled in Law Schools in the country. Last year, only 9,500 African-Americans were enrolled—a decline of about 300 students. It was stated that a total of 63 per cent of African-American students were denied admission as compared to 35 per cent of their white counterparts.
At this forum that was organized to address the decline in African-American enrollment in Law Schools, it was said the major cause for this trend was the Law Standard Admission Test (LSAT), which is a requirement for admission to Law Schools.
It was pointed out that over-reliance on LSAT scores by many Law Schools has left out many African-American students who have low scores due to lack of resources for adequate preparation. The average LSAT score among African-Americans is 142, which is below the national average of 145. It was said that most schools prefer students that score 155 and above.
Reliance on higher LSAT scores was attributed to influence from media rankings where some of the Law Schools compete for such rankings as a measure of higher standard and do not necessarily invest time and resources preparing students for the bar certification test.
Emmanuel Opati is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.