Concerning Trends in Law School Enrollment

By  - 
The Scales of Justice

A recent study revealed a significant decline in racial diversity among law students in states that have banned race-conscious admission over the past 30 years. Conducted by law professors from Yale University, New York University, and Northwestern University, the study is entitled “Affirmative Action and Racial Diversity in U.S. Law Schools, 1980-2021.”

The impact of state-level affirmative action bans on racial diversity was notable, with an average decrease of 10 to 17% in the racial diversity of law students. The study highlighted that Black and Hispanic students bore the brunt of this decline. 

Furthermore, top-ranked law schools, including institutions like the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and the University of Michigan Law School, experienced the largest diversity reductions, ranging from 36 to 47%, after affirmative action bans were implemented.

Despite these challenges, the national law student population has shown some progress in diversification. Currently, 40% of the U.S. population is considered non-White, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Law School Admission Council reports that 40.2% of the 2023 law school class were students of color. However, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on race conscious admissions could further impact law school enrollment. 

The authors of the study suggest that the nationwide ban on affirmative action could have similar impacts on enrollment as the state-level bans of recent decades, which would have a ripple effect and limit the number of important leadership roles filled by people of color. 

“Law schools are pipelines to elite leadership roles in government and private industry,” the study reads. “Lawyers make up a tenth of CEOs, a third of state governors, more than a third of U.S. House members, more than half of U.S. senators, and almost all judges and prosecutors. 

A decline in racial diversity in law schools, particularly elite law schools, may lead to a decline in racial diversity in these key leadership roles.