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AS a member of the National Bar, I from time to time, check the website for legal news and to see how we as an association are doing. Today was one of those days. The news is not good. My question to the members of AA is: Should non attorneys care about this fact and is this trend true across all of the professions?

May 2006
President's Report on Law School Diversity

Soon after taking office last summer, a disturbing trend came to my attention - African-American law school enrollment was on a 10-year decline, while both overall law school enrollment and other minority enrollment were increasing substantially. This was particularly troubling given that opponents of affirmative action were increasing their efforts to rollback the gains we had made in the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), which held that achieving diversity was a compelling state interest that could be taken into account in university admissions decisions.

It soon became clear through a ground-breaking study published by St. Johns University Law Review that the main cause of declining African-American law school enrollment was increasing over-reliance on the Law School Admissions Test by law schools in their admissions decisions and by the Accreditation Committee and Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education in their accreditation practices. I asked the National Bar Association Law Professors Division to study these issues and make recommendations to me about how to reverse this decline.

In December, the Law Professors Division submitted a resolution on law school diversity that I revised and then submitted to the NBA Executive Committee in January for its consideration. The Executive Committee approved the resolution as submitted and it was then transmitted to the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education. The approved resolution states as follows:

WHEREAS the National Bar Association is the oldest and largest organization of attorneys and judges of color in the world, founded in 1925, and today representing over 20,000 lawyers, judges, legal scholars and law students internationally;

WHEREAS, the National Bar Association believes that, in order for the American justice system to achieve its mission, it must value and embody racial, ethnic and gender diversity;

WHEREAS, the National Bar Association supports programs that increase opportunities for people of color to participate fully in the legal profession;

WHEREAS enrollment of African-American students at ABA-approved law schools has decreased since peaking in 1994 despite the approval since then of 15 new law schools and a substantial increase in overall law school enrollment;

WHEREAS the number of African-American graduates of ABA-approved law schools has decreased since peaking in 1998 despite an increase in overall law school graduates;

WHEREAS the number of African-American applicants to ABA-approved law schools for the September 2005 entering class dropped at nearly double the national rate;

WHEREAS respected legal educators and members of the Law School Admissions Council who gathered at the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights at St. John's University on September 7, 2005 for a national conference on "The LSAT, U.S. News & World Report, and Minority Admissions" concluded that some law schools may be raising their minimum LSAT requirements contrary to LSAC guidelines in order to boost their U.S. News & World Report rankings;

WHEREAS some law schools have been required by the ABA to raise their minimum LSAT requirements, and have seen their African-American enrollment decrease substantially as a result, without any published data or studies demonstrating that these practices have a valid educational purpose;

WHEREAS over-reliance on the LSAT contrary to LSAC guidelines has a disparate impact on the admissions of students of color;

WHEREAS practices that have a disparate impact on the admission of minority students, particularly African-American and Latino students, shift the burden of proof to those responsible for the practices to demonstrate a valid educational purpose justifying the practices; and

WHEREAS the ABA Council of the Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar is currently considering proposed changes in the Standards for Approval of Law Schools relating to equal opportunity, diversity, and non-discrimination;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the National Bar Association calls the attention of the Council to these disturbing statistical trends and urges the Council to take effective action to increase law school diversity by:
1. Strengthening proposed changes in the Standards for Approval of Law Schools to require that law schools shall make greater efforts to promote diversity in legal education within the limits allowed by law;

2. Adopting standards prohibiting misuse of the LSAT contrary to LSAC guidelines for the law school admissions process;

3. Requiring that admissions and accreditation practices that have a disparate impact on enrollment of students of color be valid, reliable, and supported by published studies correlating those practices with increased professional competence; and

4. Increasing the transparency of law school admissions and accreditation practices that have a disparate impact on enrollment of students of color by making the basis for those practices public and providing public access to the data and studies supporting those practices. .

Concurrently with these efforts, I opened a dialogue with ABA President Michael S. Greco, who was both receptive and supportive. At the ABA midwinter meeting, the ABA Board of Governors added increasing law school diversity to their list of top priorities for the coming year. In addition, the ABA Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity in the Profession is currently circulating a resolution that commits the ABA to work to ensure that law school admissions policies do not have a disparate impact on minority acceptance rates and that the bar exam does not have a disparate impact on minority bar passage rates. The NBA has signed on as a co-sponsor of this resolution, which is expected to be presented to the ABA House of Delegates at the ABA's annual meeting in August.

Some progress has also been made with the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education, which incorporated language consistent with the first NBA action item quoted above in changes to the ABA accreditation standards approved by the Council in February. In addition, the Council has published for comment additional changes in the standards that would incorporate the second NBA action item quoted above. More work remains to be done, however, with regard to action items three and four, which, to date, the Council has not addressed. I recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education focusing on these issues, which was published in the Chronicle's April 28, 2006 edition. As I summed up in that letter:

The disturbing reality in American legal education today is that many schools are affirmatively denying admission to qualified minority applicants, whose credentials would have qualified them for admission just a few years ago, by artificially raising minimum LSAT requirements to respond to the media rankings game, which pegs a school's rank in part based on admitted students' LSAT scores. And other schools that want to increase the diversity of the profession by reducing the significance of the LSAT in race-blind admissions policies are being forced to choose between diversity and compliance with accreditation requirements that have not been justified with valid and reliable studies correlating these requirements with increased professional competence.

The Law School Admissions Council, which designs and administers the LSAT, has said that the test "was never intended to serve as a measure of 'merit' . . . [and] measures only a limited set of skills." LSAC has also said that the test does not assess many skills and attributes that are integrally related to success as a lawyer and cannot come close to accounting for all the factors that contribute to an individual student's success or failure in law school.

Over-emphasis on the LSAT and the damaging effect this is having on the diversity of the legal profession is the real story that needs to be told about law school admissions and accreditation practices. That is why the National Bar Association has called on the Council of the Section on Legal Education to adopt standards that would require that any admissions or accreditation practice that has a disparate impact on students of color must be validly correlated with increased professional competence, and to increase the transparency of its accreditation practices by making the basis for those practices public and providing public access to the data and studies supporting those practices. Only then will all Americans have a full and fair opportunity to pursue their dreams of serving the public as members of the bar.

On April 21-23, 2006, the ABA Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity in the Profession held a Strategic Planning Group meeting in Dallas, Texas. NBA President-Elect Linnes Finney and several members of the NBA Law Professors Division are members of the Strategic Planning Group. I am pleased to report that they were successful in convincing the group to include action items three and four in the ABA's draft strategic plan. Those action items are essential if we are to reverse the disturbing decline in African-American law school enrollment.

Members of the NBA Law Professors Division have also opened up a dialogue with selected members of the Congressional Black Caucus, with the goal of convincing the Black Caucus to call for a study of admissions and accreditation practices that have a disparate impact on students of color. We believe that such a study would bring greater transparency to those practices and would help inform the debate over how to reverse the decline in African-American law school enrollment.

Recently, members of the NBA Law Professors Division have been successful in bringing much-needed media attention to these issues. Below are links to a recent story in USA Today and to a story aired by CBS Channel 2 in Chicago that do a good job of summarizing the issues:

USA Today

CBS Channel 2 (Chicago)

We will continue to work on these issues in the coming months to make sure that we reverse the decline in African-American law school enrollment. I encourage you to join us in these efforts.

Reginald M. Turner President,
National Bar Association
Original Post
Timely subject my sister, look at what I found...

From the Washington Post:
Exchange program may make
medical schools more diverse

By Chris L. Jenkins, Washington Post
Sunday, September 5, 2004

RICHMOND – When state Sen. Benjamin J. Lambert III (D-Richmond) first heard the news, it sounded about right, but he still couldn't believe it: The nation's predominantly white medical schools accepted only 70 black men in 2003 for the fall semester.

An ophthalmologist as well as one of Virginia's first black lawmakers, Lambert said he was reminded how much needed to be done in his own profession to promote diversity among the nation's health care professionals. And it struck a powerful chord with the legislator, who lived through the civil rights movement.

"Where we used to be in the middle of the line, we're at the back of the line now," he said, referring to the falling number of black medical students. "It was just shocking to me that we've slipped so far."

So Lambert, who has worked to fund programs in the state's colleges, decided to help Virginia become part of the solution by throwing his support behind a budding exchange program started by the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The university was having problems attracting minority students to its Lincoln campus and for several years had been working with students from historically black colleges to be part of a program that would help them prepare for medical school.

Lambert, along with Termone Green, the vice president of a health care company, have enlisted Virginia's five historically black colleges – as well as minority students from Virginia Commonwealth University – to become part of the Nebraska summer exchange program, where students will be exposed to intense class work that will prepare them for the MCAT exams and give them a stronger foundation in the natural sciences and math. Lambert and VCU President Eugene P. Trani are scheduled to announce the partnership this week in Richmond.

Leaders for the Virginia-Nebraska Alliance said the program's goals are to increase the number of minority health professionals and researchers nationwide. Not only will it offer summer classes for undergraduates to prepare for entrance exams and the rigors of medical school, it will also provide training and research opportunities for college professors.

"Unfortunately, what we're trying to make up for is a deficiency in the [K-12] public schools, where many minority children just aren't getting the basics," said Rubens J. Pamies, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and founder of the program.

Pamies added that while cultural diversity in the United States is increasing, there is a lack of racial diversity in health care policy, administration, research and practice.

"Research is the driving force that can address minority health disparities and access issues," Pamies said. "The bottom line is that students and faculty at [Nebraska] and each institution will benefit. We want their students to have these opportunities to get diverse experiences across the country."

Nebraska already has exchange programs with several universities, including Dillard University in New Orleans and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. But the Virginia program will be the first in which all of a state's historically black colleges participate.

The five historically black schools in Virginia are Hampton University, Norfolk State University, Virginia State University, St. Paul's College and Virginia Union University.

"This really has the potential for being a model that can be used in many places," Trani said.

For Lambert, the attempt to get more young minority students to follow his path is a personal one, one that he has tried to forge in his life as a doctor and lawmaker.

"It was time to do something different, and we need to be aggressive with trying to keep our nation's medical schools diverse," he said. "And it has to start now."

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