The Columbia School of Law and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) have been tracking the impact the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Grutter v. Bollinger. Grutter challenged the University of Michigan School of Law’s admission policy on the grounds that it discriminated against white students. The Supreme Court found that diversity in the student body was a compelling state interest that permitted race conscious admissions policies, and provided a framework for law schools to develop a policy within the bounds of the Constitution.
Columbia and SALT have found that the effect of the decision was not to increase diversity, but quite the opposite. The percentage of students in law school classes who are African American or Mexican American is down significantly despite that the GPA’s and LSAT scores of African American and Mexican American students have steadily improved and they continue to apply to law school in constant numbers. The data published by Columbia and SALT is compelling and well worth reviewing. The available data is through 2008, so the impact of the recession is not yet known.
Without a doubt, diversity is important throughout the profession. The entire profession benefits and the principles of justice are served (as are basic notions of fairness) when barriers to entry into the practice of law on the grounds of race are removed. Race conscious admissions are essential to getting that job done.
Diversity in race and in economic background is especially important to legal aid work. A diverse staff ensures that the program has cultural competence and credibility with the community being served.