A new report authored by the ABA Presidential Initiative Commission on Diversity is out and, in short, it’s depressing.
The report found some unfortunate realities in the legal industry, which were exacerbated by the financial downturn.
In a section titled “disappointments,” the report pointed out that in 2000 about 90% of professionals in the legal industry were Caucasian (compared to a national population that was 70% Caucasian). Projections for this year are similar.
According to the authors, diversity programs can be an expensive time-suck, with few results and no measured assessments. As well, there is still no central, reliable source for statistical data on diversity in the industry.
Some of the trends recognised by the commission:
- The recession is drying up monies for diversity initiatives and creating downsizing and cutbacks that may disproportionately and negatively affect lawyer diversity—thereby undoing the gains of past decades.
- The increasing cost of legal education makes attending law school and the debt burden exceedingly difficult for poor and working class people. Because income and wealth converge disproportionately with race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and disability, the cost of legal education in our current economy must be a central site for advocacy in the interest of a diverse legal profession.
The report calls on law schools to inform applicants about what the true opportunity costs are of a legal education, and on law firms to readjust the way they view diversity with an emphasis on the pervading culture rather than just recruitment.
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