Whites Over-represented in Law Schools

09.07.2005 | Culture and Society, Faculty, LawWhites continue to be over-represented and minorities face long odds in the law school admission process, according to a study by University of Dayton race law expert Vernellia Randall.

Randall found whites make up 68 percent of law school applications, but fill more than 80 percent of law school seats. Of the 177 historically white law schools, 158 seated a percentage of whites greater than the national application pool. Of those 158, 24 schools are 90 percent white.

Randall's findings and her second annual "Whitest Law Schools Report," will be presented at St. John's University's conference on "LSAT, U.S. News and World Report, and Minority Admission" Wednesday, Sept. 7.

According to Randall, the disparity stems from how U.S. News and World Report, the Law School Admission Council and the American Bar Association (ABA) are reporting test scores, compiling rankings, making admission decisions and accrediting law schools.

"Because society believes test numbers are proof of intelligence and ability, and law schools want to increase their rankings, hard-working, intelligent people from all races and backgrounds are losing the numbers game," said Randall, who is often sought out by national media to discuss race and the law. "Thus, we have a less diverse legal profession."

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the nation's white and minority populations will be nearly equal by 2050. By then, Randall said it is likely 80 percent of the legal profession representing the nation still will be white.

"We could have an America in which a white minority controls the legal system similar to South Africa in the last half of the 20th century," Randall said. "People have a difficult time trusting a system disproportionately dominated by persons who do not share their racial or ethnic experiences."

Randall said law schools should look at an applicant's entire profile when evaluating prospective students. She added the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) only moderately predicts a student's first-year academic success. Even the Law School Admission Council, an organization run by the nation's law schools, has policies concerning how law schools use the test and advises them not to use the test exactly how many of them are using it.

Randall also suggests:

* The U.S. News and World Report could make diversity part of its rankings formula.

* The Law School Admission Council could stop reporting scores to schools not using them properly.

* The ABA can set the following rules in its law school accreditation process: schools cannot use practices that discriminate merely to increase their rankings; schools must admit a critical mass of minorities from the areas the school promotes it serves; schools must use test scores consistently and must consider factors other than grade-point average and test scores, such as a student overcoming adversity or potential ability to contribute to the legal profession.

The University of Montana law school has the highest percentage of white students at 96.3 percent. Samford University (94.6), Campbell University (94.4), Duquesne University (94.3), Quinnipiac University (92.6), the University of South Carolina (92.6), the University of South Dakota (92.2), Marquette University (92.1), the University of Maine (92.1) and the University of Kentucky (92.0) round out the top 10.

The University of Idaho, Northern Kentucky University and the University of Richmond dropped from the top 10. Campbell, Quinnipiac and South Dakota are new to the list.

The 10 least-white schools remained the same but switched places: St. Thomas University (54.6), Queens College (56.8), Whittier Law School (57.0), Western State University (57.5), Santa Clara University (58.8), Columbia University (60.1), the University of Southern California (60.8), Loyola (Calif.) Law School (61.6), Southwestern University School of Law (62.7) and the University of California-Davis (63.1).

The University of Hawaii was last year's most diverse school, but it was not included among historically white law schools for this year's survey because of the number of Pacific islanders who traditionally attend the school.

For interviews, contact Shawn Robinson at (937) 229-3391 or (937) 229-3241. Randall should be available for comment Thursday.