I've Been Admitted to Law School. The Question is...Can I Survive?


Monday, February 14, 2005

And the Affirmative Action Debate Rages On

The Sunday New York Times has an article based on a study done by Richard H. Sander whose study is based on the thesis that Affirmative Action lessens the number of black lawyers because many black students "end up attending law schools that are too difficult for them, and perform badly." He says;

If black law students were accepted to lesser law schools under race-blind admissions, they would receive better grades and pass the bar in greater numbers. Even accounting for the many black students who could not attend any law school without affirmative action, the ultimate number of black lawyers would still increase.

I disagree with this assertion. As Richard Lempert at U Michigan points out, there has been little difference between black and white students in rates of graduation, passing the bar and in post graduate income. He goes on to say that his [Sander's] analysis provides no case for the Harvards, Yales and Columbias. I agree with this statement, I'm sure you'd be hard pressed to find many unemployed graduates of the top law schools, as well as a significant percentage of graduates from the top law schools who are having problems passing the bar - black orwhite. Consequently I can only assume that the real "victims" of Affirmative Action are the graduates of the lower ranked law schools. Lower ranked law schools unquestionably have lower bar passage rates and unemployment statistics than their higher ranked counterparts so there is already room for a discrepancy even without Affirmative Action in the debate.

I have to wonder...shouldn't his study be more specific and come out and say that Affirmative Action at lower ranked schools accounts for the dearth of black lawyers?

Additionally, unquestionably there are far fewer black law students than there are white so providing statistics such as the following are quite misleading:

About 88 percent of all law students pass a bar exam on the first attempt; 95 percent pass eventually. For blacks, the corresponding figures are 61 percent and 78 percent.

If 2 out of every hundred white students fail the bar, that's 2% while if 2 out of 20 black students fail the bar, that's 10% even though it's the same number. [I don't have statistics on the ratio of the actual number of black students to white students in law school overall but if the diversity statistics in the law school catalogues I get are at all accurate the ratio is pretty low.]

While his story does fit his data, I can't help but think that other interpretations of the data are necessary, it surely doesn't convince me that Affirmative Action is resulting in fewer lawyers, while that may be true, I'd need another, more comprehensive study taking into consideration many more variables to convince me.

I got the link from JD2B (which tells you what I do during the day when I should be productive).