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Study: As U.S. Grows More Diverse, Law Student Population Whitens - (

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  • Study: As U.S. Grows More Diverse, Law Student Population Whitens - (

    A study released by Columbia Law School earlier this week reveals an interesting — some might say troubling — trend: the population of U.S. law schools is growing paler.

    The news: From 1993 to 2008, law schools added about 3,000 spots for first-year students. But both the percentage and the number of black and Mexican-American law students declined in that time frame. Click here for the NYT story; here for more about the study, from Columbia.

    The author of the study, Columbia Law prof Conrad Johnson, told the NYT that what makes the declines particularly troubling is that in that same period, both groups improved their college grade-point averages and their LSAT scores.

    “What’s happening, as the American population becomes more diverse, is that the lawyer corps and judges are remaining predominantly white,” John Nussbaumer, associate dean of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

    And what explains the trend? Nussbaumer, for one, hurls some of the blame toward that old institution that everyone loves to hate: U.S. News & World Report.

    “A big part of it is that many schools base their admissions criteria not on whether students have a reasonable chance of success, but how those LSAT numbers are going to affect their rankings in the U.S. News & World Report,” Nussbaumer said. “Deans get fired if the rankings drop, so they set their LSAT requirements very high.

    Johnson said minority enrollment has fallen despite the United States Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger, which held that race can be taken into account in law school admissions because the diversity of the student body is a compelling state interest.

    “Someone told me that things had actually gotten worse since the Grutter decision, and that’s what got us started looking at this,” Johnson said. “Many people are not aware of the numbers, even among those interested in diversity issues. For many African-American and Mexican-American students, law school is an elusive goal.”

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