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Speaker says law jobs lack minorities


November 07, 2007

No fewer than 10 occupations, from accountants to news reporters, outrank the law in terms of minority representation, and just 10 percent of attorneys are from under-represented racial and ethnic groups, according to an affirmative-action advocate who spoke recently at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

Daniel Bernstine, president and chief executive officer of the Law School Admission Council, was the keynote speaker Oct. 30 in the Diversity Scholar Lecture Series, which was sponsored by the Intergroup Relations Center at ASU and the College of Law. Bernstine’s topic was “The Continuing Need for Affirmative Action.”

“Those of us concerned about recruiting and enrolling students from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds face many challenges,” says

Bernstine, president emeritus of Portland State University. “Test scores and grade-point averages discourage many minority students from applying to law school. For those who do apply, the acceptance criteria set by admission committees create an additional obstacle to acceptance.”

The preservation of affirmative action will require higher education, including law schools, to strategize methods for responding to legal challenges and ballot initiatives, such as is expected in Arizona in the 2008 election, he says.

Law schools should begin collaborating with experts in elementary and secondary education to improve opportunities for everyone in the school pipeline, use the LSAT as a good, but limited tool to recruit diverse, interesting students, and help promote the strengthening of early education programs, Bernstine says.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if Americans cared as much about their local preschools and elementary schools as they do about their sports teams?” he asks.

Bernstine and Alex Johnson, a University of Virginia law professor and former LSAC board chairman, conducted a faculty seminar about affirmative action Oct. 31 at the College of Law. They criticized law-school rankings, published annually by U.S. News & World Report, saying they have forced schools to misuse the LSAT. For many, the goal has become achieving a class of students with higher test scores, which has had the effect of decreasing diversity, they say.

“The focus on rankings driven by U.S. News has caused law schools to negate their own admission policies with respect to affirmative action,” Johnson says. “This chase for a higher ranking is destroying our attempts at diversity.”


Jane Magruder, jane.magruder@asu.edu
(480) 727-9052
College of Law