Law student diversity hits new high as schools await affirmative action ruling
- The percentage of first-year law students who are racial or ethnic minorities jumped nearly 2% this year
- A decision by the Supreme Court to curtail affirmative action could impede future progress
(Reuters) - This year’s crop of new law students is the most diverse on record by a significant margin, new data from the American Bar Association show.
Nearly 37% of U.S. first-year law students are racial or ethnic minorities, up from 28% a decade ago, according to an analysis of the ABA data by the Law School Admission Council.
Law student diversity has generally ticked up annually in recent years, and 2021 also represented an all-time high. But this year’s 2% year-over-year increase in minority enrollment is unusually large.
“This is tangible progress that results from much effort among law schools, diversity pathway programs and applicants themselves,” said Aaron Taylor, executive director of the AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence, which advocates for affordability and access to law school.
The ABA on Monday released a trove of law school data covering enrollment and demographics, Law School Admission Test scores, law students’ undergraduate grade-point and acceptance rates. Those figures show that the total number of first-year law students declined nearly 11%, after surging 12% in 2021.
The latest law school diversity gains come as many expect the Supreme Court to rule next year that considering race in higher education admissions is unconstitutional, which would likely hinder some law school efforts to bring in diverse classes.
“Regardless of how the court rules, we need to continue to cultivate and support the growing diversity in legal education,” Law School Admission Council executive Susan Krinsky said in a blog post about the new ABA data.
Legal educators should conduct research on the programs and practices that have helped increase law student diversity in recent years, Krinsky added.
The ABA data show that Hispanic students comprise 9.4% of the current first-year class at accredited U.S. law schools, up from 8.9% in 2021. Asian students are 8.9% of the class, up from 8.1% the previous year.
Women also continue to enroll in law school at a higher rate than men, representing 55.3% of the new first-year class.
However, the percentage of Black students declined slightly from 7.9% in 2021 to 7.8% this year.
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