More Hispanics Attending Law School

National
Posted By Eliana Osborn on January 25, 2016 at 11:25 am
More Hispanics Attending Law School
Florida International University College of Law has 55% Hispanic enrollment, up nearly 12% since 2010. Image: FIU

Law school enrollment has decreased each year since 2010, according to numbers from the American Bar Association (ABA).  That was the all-time high with more than 147,000 students at the 204 ABA-approved schools.  But, there’s an interesting trend taking place amid this overall student reduction: more minority students are being admitted and attending law school.

Hispanics are applying to law school less frequently than in 2010, along with all other groups.  The change is that more Hispanics and other minorites are being accepted.  In the 2012-13 school year, nearly 36,000 non-white students were attending law school.  That was the highest level on record, following steady increases each year since tracking began in 1987.  Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education followed up on the numbers with interviews at schools with significant Hispanic enrollment.

At Florida International University, employment after graduation looks good for Hispanic students.  Dean Alexander Acosta reports, “We have 55 percent Hispanics [up from 43.8 percent in 2010] and 65 percent minority overall.”  Job placement is at 80% at the nine-month mark, and there’s a lot of opportunity for bilingual lawyers in the Miami community.  Rutgers University is also seeing an increase in their Hispanic population, now at 35%.  Mentorships, orientation, and other strategies are being implemented to help ensure success.

Back in 2010, the New York Times reported the exact opposite of what we’re seeing now in terms of minority JD enrollment.  “From 2003 to 2008, 61 percent of black applicants and 46 percent of Mexican-American applicants were denied acceptance at all of the law schools to which they applied, compared with 34 percent of white applicants.

“What’s happening, as the American population becomes more diverse, is that the lawyer corps and judges are remaining predominantly white,” said John Nussbaumer, associate dean of Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s campus in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

As the United States becomes less and less Caucasian, we need to make sure our legal system reflects the makeup of our citizenry.  Law school is the first step toward becoming an attorney, but also a necessary for the path to becoming a judge.  Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was appointed to her current post in 2009.  One can hope that the future highest court will be made up of justices that more accurately reflect the racial diversity of the country.

Even as enrollment is increasing for Hispanic students, racial disparities still exist.  Aaron Taylor of St. Louis University School of Law published research on LSAT scores.  “Schools with higher-median LSAT scores tended to enroll more white and Asian students. Black and Hispanic students were more likely to attend schools with lower median LSAT scores, particularly at private schools.”

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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