LSAT, Minority Issues, Small Law Firms

Size Matters: Diversity in Small Firms

There are a lot of unhappy lawyers. We all know that. Part of their discontent is due to the fact that many young people go to law school who may not want to be lawyers, or do not take the time during law school to figure out what type of practice best fits their personality and goals. It was for this reason that I was so excited to learn about Steven Harper’s class for pre-law students. Getting to potential law students before they take on an obscene amount of debt is one way to prevent accidental lawyers.

But what about those individuals who actually want to be lawyers, but due to certain biases are not able to pursue their dreams? The answer is the same: get to them in college….

At least that is according to An Early Connection: For Students of Color a Helping Hand. The National Law Journal article explains that:

If racial diversity in the legal profession is ever to climb above the 10% mark where it has hovered for the past decade, pre-law counselors and law school admissions officers need to do a better job of identifying promising minority applicants, guiding them through the often intimidating application process and ensuring that they graduate. That was the consensus among 80 law deans, admissions officers and pre-law counselors who gathered at St. John’s University School of Law on Nov. 11 for a conference on diversity in law school admissions.

The article also suggests that law schools place less emphasis on LSAT scores. On average, minority test-takers score lower on the LSAT than white test-takers, according to the Law School Admission Council. “The average score for whites is 153, compared with 142 for blacks and 146 for Hispanics.” The result is a lack of diversity in law school and, ultimately, in the legal profession.

According to Columbia Law School professor Conrad Johnson, “black applicants had a shutout rate of 60 percent between 2000 and 2009, meaning that most black applicants were not accepted into any law school to which they applied. The shutout figure for Mexican Americans was 42 percent. For whites, it was 31 percent.”

Diversity among small-firm attorneys, while less studied than in Biglaw, is an issue. Is this the solution? If not, what is? Email me and let me know what you think.

When not writing about small law firms for Above the Law, Valerie Katz (not her real name) works at a small firm in Chicago. You can reach her by email at and follow her on Twitter at @ValerieLKatz.

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