Georgia Bar Journal
GSB Vol. 13, NO. 4, Pg. 52.
Fueling the Pipeline: State Bar of Georgia Diversity Program's 15th Annual CLE and Luncheon
GSB JournalVol. 13, NO. 4December 2007Fueling the Pipeline: State Bar of Georgia Diversity Program's 15th Annual CLE and LuncheonMarian Cover DockeryLaw professors, general counsels, attorneys and educators who are working to diversify the profession and enhance educational opportunities for at-risk youth convened at the Bar Center in September to discuss the importance of fueling the pipeline in law schools, firms and corporations with minorities and women and how communications may negatively impact employees in the workplace.
Law School Deans Panel
Robin Rone, director of the American Bar Association Office of Diversity Initiatives, moderated the first panel, which included Dean Daisy Hurst Floyd of Mercer University School of Law, Dean Rebecca White of the University of Georgia School of Law, Assistant Dean Katherine Brokaw of Emory Law School, Dean Richardson Lynn of John Marshall Law School and Dean Steven Kaminshine of Georgia State University College of Law.
Despite the national statistics reporting more than a 10 percent decline in minorities (African-Americans and Hispanics) enrolled in law schools, according to White, Georgia's law schools have one of the largest concentrations of African-American law students in the country.
Mercer, UGA and GSU all rely heavily on their Black American Law Student Association (BALSA) chapters to attract future students. Floyd reported that Mercer's BALSA chapter has won national awards for sponsoring mentoring programs and UGA's BALSA chapter is, according to White, ". . . the most effective recruiting device for the school." These law schools dig deep into the pipeline by whetting the appetites of high school students for a career in law.
Mercer has a modest pipeline effort where high school students meet faculty and law students. GSU has joined other organizations to present a new pipeline project, "Justice Benham's Boot Camp," a three-week program that offers instruction to minority high school students who are taught by GSU's law professors. The objective is to get students excited about the law and encourage them to pursue law school in the future. (A full description of the program is detailed later in this article.)
In law schools where early exits are not an exception, retaining students is of paramount importance. Minority orientation programs, early mentoring, summer academic enrichment programs for any student who may be "at risk," diversity training for all students and ongoing academic support programs are among the programs offered by these schools to lower attrition rates of students. To promote retention of all students, including minorities, UGA offers an "Early Start Program" to expose students to the law school experience and to provide instruction on writing, briefing cases and Constitutional Law. Mercer took a novel approach by recruiting and enrolling a critical mass of five talented Hampton University minority graduates. The relationship with the school goes beyond recruiting Hampton students. Mercer annually funds the Hampton Deans Scholarship, a full scholarship for one graduate of this historically black college.
According to Brokaw, Emory Law School has long enjoyed a high percentage of minority enrollment. Students come from all over the United States because Atlanta is a huge draw. Brokaw also reported that the percentage of minority enrollment has increased from 18 percent in 1995 to 40 percent in 2007. The traditional 90 percent bar exam passage rate of Emory students has actually increased to 96 percent with the rise in minority enrollment.
Among the challenges the law schools face despite their success in recruiting diverse student populations are: Recruiting more minority and women faculty Creating a more inviting environment for minority and women students Securing funds to create valuable academic assistance programs Changing a widely publicized ranking system that does not take into account diversity in the student body (U.S. News & World Report) Addressing issues of accreditation by the American Bar Association (ABA) which pressure law schools to select students with higher LSAT scores that adversely impact the number of minority students enrolled
Lynn, who has in the past served on accreditation teams, reported how the ABA accreditation rules impacted John Marshall's minority enrollment. According to Lynn, although the number of minority students at his law school increased, the percentage of minorities actually declined from 52 percent (44 percent African-American) to 46.5 percent (18.9 percent African-American) since 2000 because the ABA accreditation process includes reviewing the admission figures, namely LSAT scores of applicants. Admitting students with low LSAT scores, e.g. the low 140s, hurts the accreditation chances of law schools. When the ABA inspects law schools every seven years, numbers of minority students in many...