Law Schools See Record Diversity Ahead of Affirmative Action Ban

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The law school class of 2023, the last to be admitted before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ban on race-conscious admissions took effect, is the most diverse on record, according to new American Bar Association (ABA) data.

An analysis of the ABA data by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) shows that students of color make up 40% of the current first-year Juris Doctor students, up from 39% in 2022. This marks the third consecutive year of record diversity in law schools.

Multiracial representation in particular reached its highest level in 2023, with students identifying as two or more races now comprising 11.1% of the first-year class. The incoming class also has the highest-ever percentages of women (55.8%), LGBTQ+ students (14.7%), and first-generation college students (24.2%).

Despite rising diversity, research shows persistent challenges for underrepresented law students. First-generation students, people of color, and women exhibit higher attrition rates, discrepancies in bar passage, and disparities in employment outcomes, according to LSAC. These groups are also still underrepresented in the legal field, particularly in senior positions.

“Much work remains to be done throughout the profession, and this summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on race-conscious admission means we must work even harder to advance law and justice by promoting access, equity, and fairness in the profession,” writes LSAC Senior Advisor James Leipold.

Despite the ban on affirmative action, early data from LSAC for the fall 2024 law school class shows promising trends, with a 3.6% increase in overall applicants compared to last year. Notably, applicants of color are up by 5.9%, women applicants by 4.6%, and first-generation college student applicants by 2.4%.