Approximately 18,000 students are enrolled in
Californias 61 law schools. The vast majority 14,000 attend one of the
18 schools approved by the American Bar Association, and of those, 10,000 are white.
Minority enrollment at these schools varies widely, due largely to
Proposition 209, which prohibits the use of affirmative action by the state, and the 1995
directive by the regents of the University of California barring consideration of race in
admissions to undergraduate and graduate programs. Private law schools are bound by no
Since the anti-affirmative action rules have been in place, three of
four UC law schools generally have seen the enrollment of African-Americans, American
Indians and Hispanics drop, while the number of Asian-American numbers stayed roughly the
same and the number of white students climbed.
At UC Berkeleys Boalt School of Law, which had long been in the
forefront of minority recruitment, the decline was dramatic, going from a high of 39 to 40
percent minority enrollment to the present 20
to 25 percent. Boalts current first-year class is 22.3 percent minority, compared to
37.2 percent in the fall of 1996.
Similarly, UCLAs current first-year class is 30.4 percent
minority, compared to 38.1 percent in 1996.
UC Davis also has seen its numbers drop, with 27.3 percent minority
enrollment in its current first-year class, compared to 38.9 percent in 1995.
Overall, enrollment in the current first-year classes of those three
UC law schools combined is 26.7 percent this year, compared with a high of 45.3 percent in
the fall of 1994.
Minority enrollment at Hastings, in San Francisco, which is
independent of the regents but bound by Prop. 209, has remained relatively static at about
We were making a big contribution to diversity in the legal
profession in California, lamented Lujuana Treadwell, Boalts assistant dean
for the last eight years, but we are no longer.
Boalt made several changes to its admissions formula in an effort to
continue to attract minority students, but with little success, Treadwell said. From
the work we did, and looking at what other schools have done, our conclusion was that
short of taking race and ethnicity into
account, we could not make very significant increases, she said. We havent
given up, but were worn out.
The fact that we cant take race into account means theres
a lot we cant do, agreed Andrea Sossin-Bergman, director of admissions at the
UCLA law school. Were not just hiding our head in the sand. Were trying
to do something. We hope it improves, but its difficult.
Virtually every law school makes efforts to attract qualified
minority students, using techniques ranging from generous financial aid packages to
recruiting trips to cities with heavy minority populations. Private schools are permitted
to take race into consideration in the admissions process.
The University of Southern California law school, which now boasts 40
percent minority enrollment, contacts high-achieving students and their advisors,
encouraging them to apply. We use our scholarship funds as part of our efforts to
enroll minority students, says associate dean Robert Saltzman. The price tag,
however, is steep: $27,000 in annual tuition, with an estimated total tab of $35,000 a
The University of Santa Clara law school, with 39 percent minority
enrollment, waives the application fee for some disadvantaged students, whom the school
attracts by way of targeted mailings and recruiting trips to cities such as Atlanta and
Chicago. Associate admissions director Jeanette Leach said she regularly attends forums
for prospective students sponsored by the Law School Admission Council. Student groups
review some applications prior to the admissions committee, sometimes requesting the
committee to take a second look at a disadvantaged student who might otherwise be
rejected, Leach said.
Like other law schools, UCLA has beefed up its outreach efforts,
including efforts to improve applicants academic records.
We have to try to work on the longterm academic pipeline to
make sure folks are as academically competitive as possible, said outreach director
To that end, UCLA offers programs which target minority students
ranging from elementary school to college. A law fellows program offers law-related
courses to economically disadvantaged, high potential college students in the Los Angeles
area who might be interested in applying to law school. Following completion of the
course, volunteers in the program follow up with counseling and encouragement.
From the first group of 20, four enrolled in law school.
The biggest problem in minority recruiting, Trujillo-Cox said, is the
disparity in grades and test scores between white and non-white students. Programs such as
those at UCLA are absolutely what we should be doing and have the potential to
significantly add to the diversity of our classes, he said. But as an overall
solution to an ultimately political problem, affirmative action must be reinstated or the
educational system must provide an even playing field to all students, Trujillo-Cox said.
USCs Saltzman agrees that disparity issues which arise long
before a student ever gets to college play a big role in the success of minority students.
The real issue (in making the bar more diverse) is whether the
numbers of minority students graduating from college and who want to go to law school
increases and whether that happens in a function of a lot of things, he said. One
is how well they are prepared before college.
Regardless of the root of the problem, State Bar board member Palmer
Madden says he finds the lack of diversity in the legal profession unacceptable.
I dont think we want to live in a society with these kind
of trend lines, Madden said. In 20 years, when we have such a diverse culture,
if we dont have a diverse bar it wont augur well for the profession.
He hopes the bar can highlight the issue, undertake some programs to
increase the number of minority lawyers and work with other parts of our society
to make some changes.
Karen Nobumoto, a board member from Los Angeles, says just because
the problem is societal does not mean it can be ignored. There are steps that can be taken
now, she says.
For instance, many African-American students who fail the bar exam on
the first attempt do not take the test again because of the high cost of taking the exam
and bar preparation classes, which together could run more than $3,000. She favors
offering an economic hardship fee for second-time test takers.
Nobumoto and others shy away from any suggestion that disadvantaged
students be held to a different or lesser standard. That creates a second class
citizen and suggests that minorities cant pass the bar exam, Nobumoto said.
The bar exam is designed to produce ethical and competent attorneys and I cant
see that we would want to reduce that standard.
Virtually no one who has looked at diversity in the profession
believes there are any simple or quick solutions. Boalts Treadwell calls the
question the most difficult issue she has faced and concedes, I dont
know if Im optimistic.
Saltzman of USC said even though the number of minority students has
increased at some schools, boosting the numbers in the profession will take years.
Even if every law school had 30 to 40 percent minority
students, its still a very long process to get the overall percentage of lawyers to
I thought there were some easy answers, added the bars
Braun. Ive found the easy answers arent there.