Why do we need diversity?
Diversity in law brings diverse perspectives. As I read cases in my classes, I notice how laws and rulings impact a wide range of communities. However, the legal field does not reflect a diverse population. According to the American Bar Association, 2008 statistics show that only 34.4% of lawyers are women, 4.6% Black or African American, 2.9% Asian, and 3.8% Hispanic or Latinx. 86% are non-Hispanic white people. Further, in 2019, LGBTQ+ lawyers represented only 3% of all lawyers at firms that participated in a National Association for Law Placement report, and only 0.5% of lawyers identify as having a disability.
What do we mean by a diverse population?
Diversity means representation from a wide range of communities. However, representation is not enough. Systemic racism may be linked to the lack of diversity within the legal profession. It is embedded in various institutions within society and the legal profession is not excluded. Systemic racism exists when ideas of white supremacy operate in various levels of institutions. It is difficult to dismantle considering we are still speaking out against oppressive systems in society today. As diversity efforts in these institutional levels are pursued, it is important to understand that it is not isolated from civil rights movements. Rather, it should propel them forward by creating equitable access to the legal field.
What do these numbers mean?
It is clear there is a need for greater diversity within the legal profession. There is a need to recognize economic inequalities and historical forms of racism and discrimination that prevent people from underrepresented groups to pursue a career in law. Having a diverse legal profession engenders diverse perspectives in the law. This in turn provides important perspectives that need to be considered when making laws that impact various communities in society.
How do we combat the lack of diversity?
Combating the lack of diversity in the legal profession will require real efforts that push for diversity. McGeorge’s commitment to an anti-racist law school recognizes the need for diversity and making the legal field more accessible. Programs like the Sacramento Bar Association Diversity Fellowship or Bar fund stipends and scholarships for diverse students provide support for diverse students to pursue a career in law. They combat the numbers by making the legal field more accessible to communities that have been historically marginalized in society. The acknowledgement and additional support are a start to create an equitable platform that allows for more diversity in law.
The next few articles in the Diversity in Law series will discuss how these diversity initiatives combat systemic racism and promote diversity in the legal field.