Carla D. Pratt

Investing in rims is a safer bet than investing in law school.

Occasionally, people will tell me that the calculus for attending law school is different for African-Americans than it is for any other kind of American. The proponents of this theory (and people who believe this come from all races) start with the objective fact that African-Americans are underrepresented as members of the bar. They view that as a social injustice that contributes to the fact that African-American clients are underserved by the legal community.

From those two appropriate concerns, these guys then see that the obvious solution is that more black people should apply to law school. And so they then make up reasons for why applying to law schools is somehow an especially good idea for black people. As if the fact that there’s a laudable social end magically changes the math of the law school decision.

But the social ends do not justify the economic means. Poor black people need lawyers, they don’t need more poor black people who became poor by going to law school.

Now, I’m all for racial diversity, but I fail to see the social good of encouraging black people to make ruinous financial decisions just because they are underrepresented in the group of people making this particular stupid purchase. I wouldn’t say to a bunch of white people, “You know, you really need to buy expensive rims for your car on credit. No money down!”

Sorry, that might be an inapposite analogy: rims are at least shiny and accomplish their stated goal of providing bling for your ride. A J.D. can’t even be used to adorn a car.

As I said, I’ve heard this terrible argument before, but rarely as boldly as from the associate dean for academic affairs at Penn State Law. Her version of the argument seems more like an attempt to cause active harm to the black community by taking advantage of those who don’t have enough information.

This falsehood that law school is somehow a “better” bet for African-Americans must be stopped, right here, right now….

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