Graduation is approaching. I look around, and only one other Black male is graduating with me in my class. In addition, the number of men who are part of a minority group that is graduating in total at my school is lower than the national average. Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word minority as “a part of a population thought of as differing from the rest of the population in some characteristics and often subjected to differential treatment.” According to research done between 1980 and 2021, graduation rates have been lower for Black and Hispanic law students (82 and 85 percent) compared to other students (89 percent). There is also a graduation gap between Hispanic and Black law students 3.5, and 10 percentage points, respectively, when compared to their white peers.
Across law schools, minority law students have been consistently underrepresented in entering law school classes. Minority law students have also graduated at lower rates. However, the magnitude of their underrepresentation has decreased, in part because the gap in graduation rates has been cut in half since the early 1980s.
Why does it matter?
The lack of representation among men who are in minority groups matters for several reasons. But a few important reasons come to mind. First, representation matters. When prospective attorneys see those who share similar interests, backgrounds, and cultures achieve higher education beyond a bachelor’s degree at a high level, this alone creates hope for the next generation. Second, for there to be an appearance that our laws are benefitting all persons, racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession is paramount.
But before discussing solutions for graduation rates, we must tackle the disparity in minority enrollment and attrition rates, the rates at which students leave without achieving a degree. As one of the ambassadors for Journey to Esquire, I use this platform to bring awareness to some of the issues minority students face while pursuing their Juris Doctor degree. This blog post will focus on the issues in enrollment and the attrition rates for minority students, especially Black male students.
Each year for the past eleven years, the number of men attending ABA-accredited law schools has declined. Men are increasingly turning away from the legal profession, while the enrollment of women over the past decade has increased. In 2010, there were approximately 78,518 men in law school, compared to only 52,058 in 2021. These statistics present a more drastic picture when considering minority male students’, especially Black males’, attrition rates in law school (15.5%). In 2016, minority students made up approximately 30% of 1L enrollment but accounted for 44% of 1L non-transfer attrition. See figure below:
When examining the non-transfer attrition statistics for men from minority groups, almost nine percent of 1L Non-Transfer attrition students are Hispanic while almost 11 percent are Black students. Figure two compares the 1L Non-transfer Attrition Rate at ABA-approved law school between 2016 and 2017.
Many minority students face outside factors contributing to the increase in attrition rates. Among these factors are a lack of financial resources, proper study environments, and transportation costs. The underrepresentation of minority students will not improve with the current state of affirmative action policies in higher education admissions, which are now considered unconstitutional under Students for Fair Admission.
The need for Journey to Esquire and other diversity programs
What can we do to combat these declining numbers of men from minority groups (in particular Black men) entering and remaining in law school? First, we support the existing pipeline and diversity, equity, and inclusion programs like Journey to Esquire. Journey to Esquire is, in its own words, is “essential for diverse law students who need financial and emotional support because we provide cash scholarships, mentors, and training which helps them pass the bar exam, obtain employment with competitive and powerful employers, and obtain leadership positions in professional associations.”
Journey to Esquire’s purpose is to help law school and the legal profession to reflect on the communities more accurately they serve. The enrollment and attrition rate gaps will not disappear over time; however, this is a start. Journey to Esquire provides mentorship and sponsors to help mitigate those outside factors that minority students, especially Black men, face every day. America needs more diversity in the legal field. Clients want to know that, regardless of their ethnic background, that there is someone who looks like them, or at least has experienced some of the same struggles as them, is available to represent their legal needs. Why? Because, in most instances, these clients come to an attorney for assistance in navigating the tough days that lie ahead.
If you want to support these types of diversity initiatives that improve diversity in law schools, then there are so few things you can do. These things include voting, being a part of governing boards and nonprofits that approve of diversity in scholarships, enrollment in law schools, and eventually job placement. The next generation of attorneys is counting on us to help make this legal field represent the melting pot that is the United States of America.
About the Author:
Rashaad Perry-Patterson is a graduating senior this December. He is one of Journey to Esquire’s Ambassadors for the 2023 academic year.
These posts were proofread by Grammarly
Joseline J. Hardrick is the Founder and President of Diversity Access Pipeline, Inc. She is also an author, professor, and lawyer and resides in Tampa Bay, Florida. Guest bloggers are students in the Journey to Esquire® Scholarship & Leadership Program.