Thursday, July 5, 2012

Equal Opportunity

A reader emailed this question:  “Are there any studies on law school outcomes and racial disparities?  I ask because the scammers will be ready to yell that they shouldn’t be blocked from providing access to legal education for under-represented minorities. . . . Wondering if some racial minorities are disproportionately impacted by the scam?”

Race is a sensitive subject, so I'll adopt my ponderous (rather than Swiftian) mode.  I can't claim comprehensive knowledge, but the answer to this reader's final question is "yes."  The evidence I've found shows:  (1) Black and Hispanic law graduates bear more debt than White graduates, although Asian graduates carry less.  (2) Graduates of all three minority groups are less likely to pass the bar exam than White graduates.  (3) Some law schools, especially those with poor outcomes, play upon “access” and “anti-elitism” themes to attract minority tuition dollars to campus. These are warning signs that minority law graduates, as a group, are suffering even more than White ones.      

Before looking at the data, let's posit that access to the legal profession is vitally important.  We have struggled with this issue since the late nineteenth century, when bar associations began to choke access routes for men without the proper race (White), religion (Protestant), and provenance (Northern European).  Women, of course, weren't even in the game.  But today we face a different troubling reality:  Although we have opened the profession to aspiring lawyers of all races, and minority lawyers make distinguished contributions at all levels of the legal system, minority law students bear a disproportionate burden of the financial risks in our high-tuition, high-stakes system.

Here is a brief recap of the evidence:

Race and Debt:  NALP and the American Bar Foundation have been conducting a national study of lawyers admitted to the bar in 2000.  That study, After the JD, provides the most comprehensive evidence we have about the careers of new attorneys.  Only 4.5% of the Black lawyers in that study graduated from law school debt-free; for Hispanic lawyers, the figure was 6.0%.  White lawyers were three times more likely than their Black and Hispanic classmates to graduate without law school loans:  17.3% of them did.  Asian students were the most successful at avoiding loans, with 19.9% graduating debt-free.  (See Table 10.1 on p. 81 for all debt figures reported here.)

Among students who borrowed, Blacks and Hispanics shouldered slightly more debt than Whites at graduation.  Median debt for these groups (excluding those without loans) was $73,000 for Hispanics; $72,000 for Blacks; and $70,000 for Whites.  Asian students had the lowest debt, with a median of $60,000.  Remember that all of these figures are for students who graduated in 2000; the numbers would be considerably higher today, after the last decade's ramp-up in tuition.

These racial differences in debt load persisted for years after graduation.  At the seven-year mark, almost half of Asian lawyers (46.8%) had paid off their loans; more than a third (37.0%) of White graduates were similarly debt free.  But far fewer Black and Hispanic lawyers shared that financial fortune:  Just 17.0% and 28.9%, respectively, were debt-free.  Black and Hispanic attorneys were also more likely to struggle with supersized debts:  15.1% of Black attorneys—more than one in seven—still owed more than $100,000 seven years after law school graduation; 10.5% of Hispanic graduates fell in the same category.  For Asians and Whites, the percentages carrying these large debts were just 6.9 and 7.7.

But all of these graduates had at least passed the bar.

Bar Passage:  California, the state that administers the most bar exams, reports pass rates by race.  For July 2011, the pass rates for first-time test-takers were:

  • White test-takers:                    75.4%
  • Asian test-takers:                    67.3%
  • Hispanic test-takers:               55.3%
  • Black test-takers:                    45.7%
  • Other minority test-takers:      59.0%

California allows graduates of unaccredited law schools, as well as apprentices who "read the law," to take the bar exam, but those differences do not account for the racial disparities.  The same California report breaks down bar results by educational preparation--with the same racial patterns in each group.

New York, the nation's second-largest administrator of bar exams, reports similar racial disparities in bar passage.  A study reviewing New York's July 2005 exam reported the following pass rates for first-time takers:
  • Caucasian/White test-takers:                   86.8%
  • Asian/Pacific Islander test-takers:           80.1%
  • Hispanic/Latino test-takers:                    69.6%
  •  Black/African American test-takers:      54.0%
  • [No “Other” group reported]

Candidates who fail the bar can retake the test, and many pass on subsequent attempts.  But both the California and New York data show that race differences remain even after retakes.  A national study from the 1990s reaches the same conclusion.

How many of these minority graduates, who will never practice law, owe law school debt?  How high is that debt?  I have not been able to find statistics on that—the debt figures reported above cover only graduates who passed a bar exam.  But individual law schools know how many of their graduates fail the bar and how much federal debt they owe.

Marketing to Minority Students:  On this final issue, we can look to the school that proudly claims to enroll more minority students than any other law school--none other than the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law.  Cooley's large minority enrollments, in fact, play a significant role in Cooley's self-designed ranking system.  “By ranking according to first-year class size, first-year minority enrollment, and first-year minority enrollment percentage,” Cooley declares, “schools are ranked on their ability to provide access to law school, particularly for minorities.”  Coincidentally, these factors allow Cooley to claim that it ranks second nationally among law schools.

Cooley touts its idiosyncratic ranking system--and its own high score--by stressing access and anti-elitism.  The school features a photo of a thoughtful Black football player beside the headline:  “If the NFL practiced elitism, over 70% of today’s quarterbacks would not be on a roster.”  Cooley encourages minority applicants--as well as White students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds--to compare themselves to quarterbacks who ascended from modest college programs to NFL success.  "Law schools," Cooley warns applicants, "allow themselves to be victimized by a pecking order based on elitism . . . . This self-perpetuating caste system should be replaced with an objective view that considers opportunity and academic rigor to be positives . . . ."

The bottom line, of course, is that students should shun "caste system" schools and embrace Cooley.  It's an appealing message for minorities and underprivileged Whites, but it's one that glides quickly over Cooley's steep price (just raised 8.5%), the average debt of  $115,364 carried by 87.7% of their graduates, and the school's very poor employment outcomes.  In this case, "access" is just another word for “unemployed and saddled with debt.”

Other schools may not play as explicitly on these access, anti-elitism, and caste system themes.  But all schools need to think about the ways in which our tuition spiral has affected minority students.  Black, Hispanic, and Asian law graduates--on average--have more difficulty passing the bar than White graduates.  Even when they surmount that hurdle, Black and Hispanic students carry heavier debt loads into practice.  We have made law school a much riskier, and much more expensive, investment for all students--but the newest entrants to the profession seem to shoulder the greatest risks.


  1. Coming from the United Kingdom, I struggle with the entire concept as education as a for-profit exercise in the first place, and reading the modus operandi of places like Cooley just confirm me in my prejudice.

  2. oops - concept of education, not "as"

  3. Interesting. Any info on gender differences? Economic background? I've been under the impression that more women study law than men, but that this doesn't feed through to hirings, however I've never seen solid data either way on this.

  4. At lower ranked schools it does seem like slightly more women than men attend but at elite schools, there are moderately more male students.

  5. Was there only one report available for CA (2011) and one for NY (2005)? That seems odd (particularly the NY one being as old as it is), in addition to the nationwide mention from the 90s.

    I'm not saying that you ARE, but that makes it look like you cherry-picked reports that supported your position.

  6. It's a much thornier question, but I also wonder how much harm law schools are doing to their minority applicants when they accept them with much lower credentials than the white students.

    The minorities are then thrust into an environment in which they are simply not prepared to compete on a level with the white students. In a system where the all-important 1L grades are on a curve, this would seem to really hurt the OCI/employment chances (as if anyone had any chance) of minority students.

  7. Our law school had only two African-American males out of 250 students. Both left after first semester. The sample size is too tiny to draw any conclusions, but it does me wonder.

  8. @2.00 - Did you do the LPC/BPTC? Law schools in England and Wales like BPP and Kaplan are every bit as exploitative as Cooley, it's just that they can't charge as much because LPC/BPTC students don't get theretically-unlimited government loans and can study as under-graduate students at ordinary universities. In fact, since UK high-street banks have become wary of lending to would-be solicitors/barristers who self-fund, many are paying their way (at least at BPP) with high-interest loans from the schools themselves. The schools lend them this money knowing full and well that it is far from certain that they will find legal jobs (they know this because BPP alone graduates not far off as many LPC/BPTC students per year as there are traineeships/pupillages available to graduates of all schools). Oh, and rapid price increases? The cost of doing the LPC at BPP is roughly 30% higher than it was when I finished my GDL in 2009.

    All this in an industry where until relatively recently the expectation was that students wouldn't pay much or even any of the cost of their professional qualifications up-front out-of-pocket.

    The one saving grace is this: there are a lot of places in the legal training in England and Wales where you can get off the bus if things don't look like their going to work out for you. The cost is also a lot lower because you cannot simply borrow a theoretically unlimited amount of money to pay for legal education.

    If you do an LLB then you can get out of law on graduation. No-one will think much less of you simply because you saw things differently at 21 than you did at 18. People basically look on an LLB as something similar to a degree in economics or philosophy. Your student loans come from the government-owned student loan company, will total around 20-30K GBP for current students, and don't need to be paid back until after you start earning over a decent amount(27 grand GBP a year for last financial year).

    If you are a non-law student who does the GDL/CPE (AKA the law conversion course) you can get out after one year and are only out the cost of doing it (6-9,000 quid). Again, no-one will think too badly of you if you get out at this point.

    If you go on to do the LPC/BPTC without getting a traineeship/pupillage first (stupid, but lots of people do it), and you don't have a traineeship/puppilage at the end of the year (and odds are you won't), you get pushed off the bus here. Sure, it won't look great, but you'll only have wasted an extra year if you did LLB, or two years if you did the GDL. Money-wise you'll be out ~30K GBP or so: not great, but not a life-wrecking scenario.

  9. @ FOARP, 2.00am here. No I have no direct connection to the legal profession, though many of my undergraduate friends in the 80's studied Law. One of them is a wildly successful partner with Linklaters, and another prosecutes dodgy restaurants in Burnley on behalf of the local government.

    I know in Britain at least that the life-crushing debt numbers we see recounted here are simply not possible. But it's still taking someone of my generation time to adjust to the reality that even in Europe, education, particularly vocational education, is being left to the market with ever-increasing cost and ever-decreasing prospects.

    Having read most of this blog over the past 3 months, it seems to me that the start of a solution to this mess is to either fully embrace the market, or fully embrace regulation. Legal education is caught in an exploitative racket as it's neither and both at present.

    As legal education is intended to procure bar passage and a job at the end of it (ie. it's purpose is overwhelmingly mercantile), I'd probably say it should be left to the market to decide it's value. This means open market rates for loans, and the complete sweeping away of government-backed tuition.

    Schools like Miles who offer evening classes at reduced rates for underserved communities would survive, as would those schools demonstrably able to prove to a bank that it's worth their while to sponsor people going to these institutions. The others would disappear.

  10. @4:59: I suspect we're getting a sort of accidental racial gerrymandering.

    If the bulk of black and hispanic students are accepted into schools that they don't really have the scores for, then they're all going to be in the bottom of the class. Without AA, they'd be at lower ranked schools where they're doing well, but instead we put them into higher ranked schools where they can't compete.

    That in turn hurts their job prospects because they have overwhelmingly low GPAs. 52% of black law students are in the bottom 10% of their class. Only 8% are in the top half.

    It's also gotta ruin your mental state. Being in over your head and getting shit grades for 3 years is a bummer, even if your degree is slightly more shiny. Write "A" on the top of a paper before a test and students do better. Write "F" on it and students do worse. (Write "J" on it and they do between A and F, this was an actual experiment someone did.) After 3 years of being told you're a second-rate student, you're more likely to do poorly on the bar exam.

    They're not dumber, they're not worse students, we just consistently stack the deck against them.

  11. whatever the race of the potential law school applicant, he or she should be very careful not to enroll in a law school that is just about to be shut down. We know that many low ranked law schools are going to have trouble filling their seats this fall. Just like any business, if a law school has a sharp drop in its business, it may be forced to close. If so, then the students who do enroll in that school this fall will have gone into debt and have no chance to ever graduate. So it is very important to not enroll in a low ranked law school that is in danger of shutting down.

    To that end, I have created the Law School Death Watch blog:

    The law schools that will make it on my Law School Death Watch are schools to avoid.

    What other schools deserve the "honor" of being on the law school death watch?

  12. What other schools deserve the "honor" of being on the law school death watch?

    McGeorge in Sackto.

  13. I'll Have a McGeorge with Fries, PleaseJuly 5, 2012 at 7:18 AM

    "What other schools deserve the "honor" of being on the law school death watch?"

    "McGeorge in Sackto."


    Sacrilege. Don't you know MCGEORGE DOMINATES?

  14. McGeorge dominates the fast food sector in Sackto. 99% of graduates have a full time job in fast food.

  15. @2:00AM

    A few answers to your statements. First, there is already a for profit school in the UK - Holborn College, in London with 1,900 students, many studying law - now owned by Kaplan, who also offer the LPC through the Kaplan law school. There is also American Intercontinental University in Marylebone, BPP Law school in Birmingham (LPC courses) - a large proportion of Magic Circle trainees are in fact sent to private LPC courses.

    On top of that the UK has no less than 90 faculties offering degrees in law - look them up on Wikipedia - and given the the UK now has a student loan system - that is a very problematic situation.

    The last time I checked there were about 5,000 training contracts (solicitors) and pupillages (barristers) offered in the UK last year - securing one of these is a pre-requisite to become any type of lawyer in the UK. However, there were 29,000 applicants to do a first degree in law (BL) and 19,000 got a place in England and Wales alone. To this number you need to add Scotland and Northern Ireland, not to mention the flow from the Republic of Ireland, as well as those without BLs who take a conversion course - that takes the number per year to around 25,000 but maybe as much as 30,000 aspiring lawyers in the UK. The next step to becoming a lawyer is the legal practice course (LPC) - there are 15,000 places in LPC courses, but only 9,000 were taken up. Even then - there were training contracts and pupillages for 5/9 or about 55% of those on the LPC! SO there about 25,000 to 30,000 people starting their legal studies for about 5,000 jobs. That is a situation that is considerably worse than the US - and inter alia the situation has long been worse in Spain, Italy, France, etc.

    Law school is a pretty "cushy number" for law professors, even in countries other than the US, which explains why there are so many law schools and way to many law graduates.

  16. Homeless

    Thanks, I was never going to able to finish my list, too busy, too frazzled. Please feel free to put the set I gave yesterday on your blog - can you set them up so that more information as to why a particular law school is looking "peaky" can be added.

  17. Thanks for shedding light on this vital topic, which is overshadowed by the larger umbrella of the law school scam itself.

  18. I wonder how much of Asian's lower debt loads for 2000 bar admittees is attributable the relatively high percentage of Asian admittees who were graduates of the University of California law schools and other flagship public law schools. In the 1990s, in-state tuitions at the UC schools were a third of private school -- with only a little parental support you could graudate debt free. Not so true anymore with the UC law schools charging over $40k in state.

  19. @MacK - You could add in pupillages and BPTC (formerly BVC) students, ILEX people, legal consultants etc., but these hardly change the over-all, messed-up picture. I don't know what the situation is like in Norn Iron or Scotland, but no-one in English legal education is in a position to pat themselves on the back. "Not as life-wrecking and time-wasting as Cooley" is not much of an accolade.

  20. I wonder how many of the self-reported Asian/Pacific Islander bar takers are in fact international students and whether that impacts the passage rate.

  21. FOARP

    Legal consultants are usually solicitors who surrendered their practicing certificate - usually because they could not make enough to pay for their professional indemnity insurance (rates have gone sky high) or sometimes to stay ahead of the Law Society - Solicitors Regulatory Authority. Weird thing about the UK - there is almost no effective prohibition on the unauthorised practice of law - only discipline if you hold a practicing certificate - i.e., you are authorised. So the legal consulatants are uninsured, with unknown qualifications and not subject to any discipline or rules.

  22. FOARP

  23. "I wonder how many of the self-reported Asian/Pacific Islander bar takers are in fact international students and whether that impacts the passage rate."

    I think it has to do with the higher percentage of Asian students who go to law school. If Asian students are 1% of the population but 2% of law students then I'd assume the overall quality of Asian students wouldn't be as high. (I'm just point out that if white students too went to law school at 2x the present rate then white bar passage rates would sink a lot.)

  24. homeless- i think you have to add villanova. as an alum (not of the law school), i am humiliated by villanova law's scandals and poor performance. it is a distant third in its home market, and it costs far more than the second-place school (temple). i know i've personally emailed fr. o'donahue and told him that the law school is a black mark on my alma mater's record, and the building should be repurposed immediately (it is brand spanking new. i'm sure a dept that is actually making money and cranking out marketable grads could find use for it). i am positive i'm not the only villanova guy who feels this way.

  25. Don't diss McGeorge. Justice Anthoney Kennedy taught Constitutional Law there while he was a lobbyist in Sacramento. I know, I taught one of the legal writing sections. Of course, I don't put that on my resume either.

  26. As a minority that has worked in Biglaw, Midlaw, Small law and in-house counsel, let me offer my observations based on almost two decades of experience. Minorities in general are eschewed by the legal profession, at every of the aforementioned levels I have worked in. I don't mean to be offensive here but Jews are not a minority, contrary to what most proclaimed when I first started in the legal profession.

    Black lawyers have it the worse. There are many stereotypes about Black lawyers that Biglaw partners harbor deep down but won't admit. For example, Black lawyers are seen as lazy and confrontational. I know this is one anecdote but look at Elie Mystal from Above the Law. Here is a Black kid who undoubtedly rode the AA and Black politician father connection to two Harvard degrees. In reality, based on this kid's writing, grammar and reasoning, he did not have the acumen to attend Harvard, let alone the law school. Yet, he was given the opportunity and he washed out of Biglaw in two years and proudly says he is in default of his student loans. I personally know a Black lawyer who went to Yale Law School. He was sharp as they come but he had to deal with the stereotypes ingrained in Biglaw. He was underutilized on projects and his billables suffered. This led to the "not a right fit" speech along with a pink slip. Now, I believe he does some doc review work and financial planning.

    Personally, I don't mind the stereotypes as I use them to my advantage. I prefer that my adversaries think of me as "lazy" and "unprepared." When I show up in court, it's like showing up to a boxing ring with an opponent who took you so lightly he didn't even lace up his gloves. However, if I was a college grad today, I would avoid law school knowing what I know now. (Disclosure: I had no student loan debt)

  27. I dont care if you taught at mcgeorge or not, dont care if kennedy went or not. They charge a ridiculous amount of money for an inferior product, like so many other law schools in this flooded market.

  28. MCGEORGE Unhappy MealJuly 5, 2012 at 9:03 AM

    Um...the name is MCGEORGE.

  29. @8:44

    I think a law school like McGeorge can be put on the death list without "dissing" it.

    American University is for example a decent law school as law schools go, and Catholic University is actually, if I go by the graduates I have worked with and hired actually pretty good - but in DC where there is UDC, Howard, AU, CUA, GW and GULC all pumping out students, as well as UVa and George Mason also really primarily in the DC market, as well as competition from Yale and Harvard who send a high proportion of their graduates to DC, I just don't think that medium term (3-5 years out) UDC, AU and maybe CUA will still be around - and none of these schools (well maybe UDC) are Cooley bad - they are decent enough. For that matter Rutgers-Camden is not a crap law school, it is not great but it is adequate - it is just that in the current environment it looks like it is already in a death spiral.

    The coming shakeout in legal education will take down some decent law schools as well as true pits.

  30. "Personally, I don't mind the stereotypes as I use them to my advantage. I prefer that my adversaries think of me as "lazy" and "unprepared." When I show up in court, it's like showing up to a boxing ring with an opponent who took you so lightly he didn't even lace up his gloves."

    As a Hispanic attorney who graduated from Wisconsin, I have had this happen to me. Indeed, opposing counsel in one case asked who wrote my briefs since they were too good to have been drafted by me. I also use it to my advantage in court.

  31. 8:51-
    I know you are correct. We were a minority and absolutely outliers. We have been very lucky. On the other hand it is hard to tell who we are without asking. (contrary to what many think)!


  32. It's a much thornier question, but I also wonder how much harm law schools are doing to their minority applicants when they accept them with much lower credentials than the white students.

    On a related note ... I've heard it rumored from time to time that there are silent practices by which professors grading 1L exams are supposedly made aware of those exams written by African-American students, so that the profs can grade those exams a little more leniently. Is there any truth to that?

  33. Excellent post, DJM. Thanks.

  34. 9:31:

    I am a true believer in the law school scam but your question (without any evidence) sounds like rear echelon paranoia.

  35. When I attended law school, there was a Cuban male student who obtained 3 Cs and 1 A as first semester grades. A gunner reported this to the professor who gave him an A. A week later, the A grade had been changed to a C-. This student was later placed in a "Yellow School Bus" program designed to lift marginal students' gpas to above the academic probation level of 2.5. The majority of the students on the YSB program were minorities. Many of them dropped out after first year and the ones that stayed, well they graduated with a lot of debt and most today are non-practicing attorneys.

  36. your question (without any evidence) sounds like rear echelon paranoia

    If that's the case, then it should be a very easy question for LawProf to answer.

  37. DJM and Law Prof can both answer it: were they ever given the names of minority students ahead of time for the purpose of giving them high grades? DJM?

  38. 10:05?

    Leiter, LawProf uses plenty of evidence to back up his claims. Maybe you were absent the day they taught evidence in law school. This would explain the reasons why you are unable to tell the difference between cold hard facts and anecdotes while constantly resorting to ad hominem attacks.

  39. This would explain the reasons why you are unable to tell the difference between cold hard facts and anecdotes while constantly resorting to ad hominem attacks.

    Please provide an example of an ad hominem attack in either of my posts.

  40. I've also heard some troubling, if anecdotal, stories about minority hiring at biglaw firms. Things like minorities being no-offered at much higher rates than whites/Asians, minorities being invited on a lot of callbacks (high double-digits) and not receiving a single offer.

    Re: white/Asians, my observations are that a much higher percentage of Asian students at CLS, which has a very high percentage of Asian students (allowing them to tout over 40% minority enrollment when we all know that for purposes of elite colleges Asians are overrepresented) are first generation immigrants/ESL students. This might be why they have lower bar passage rates. As my Barbri instructor says, the bar is a reading comprehension test masquerading as a law exam. Additionally, we have a lot of LLMs who take the NY Bar Exam, and the Asian LLMs seem to have more trouble with English than the Europeans/South Americans.

  41. "We have made law school a much riskier, and much more expensive, investment for all students--but the newest entrants to the profession seem to shoulder the greatest risks."

    In the end, strong or firm connections TRUMP "hard work" and persistance. Law in the U.S., and perhaps most nations, has always been a stratified "profession." The ABA sought to protect its WASP membership; so they were happy to ridicule night law schools which were geared toward training working class people to practice law.

    Of course, the ABA pigs did not want to see "those of questionable moral character" [Read: people from recent immigrant families, i.e. Greeks, Jews, Italians, etc.] earning a law license while representing other working class clients. The ABA dogs were NOT concerned that white shoe firms would actually hire any of these lawyers.

    However, it is almost always easier for big business cockroaches to win cases against poor people who are not represented by an attorney. Default judgments and directed verdicts are the tools of the corporate swine and their pets/attorneys.

  42. BoredJD,

    I'd be extremely surprised to find minority summer associates being no-offered at higher rates. Firms know that they're inviting a lawsuit, and they don't gain anything by having minority summer associates that don't get permanent job offers.

  43. Fourth tier recruiting of minority students is one of the purer strands of scam in that ball of scam known as law school. They utilize civil rightsie language of empowerment and access in order to enrich themselves at the expense of people who are culturally receptive to those appeals.

    In this, as in other ways, the law school scam resembles the housing bubble. Remember how those balloon mortgages were relentlessly peddled to minorities during the years when the bubble inflated? How civil rightsie phrases like "empowerment" were used to peddle unaffordable homes to members of a group that was culturally receptive to the appeal due to past experiences with redlining, discrimination, and lack of access to loans? And the result was, basically, the destruction of the African-American middle class.


  44. Richard Sander of UCLA Law School has done some great research on the negative outcomes from affirmative action in law school admissions. Many of his papers can be found at this link:


  45. Cooley Law is like a caddilac driving preacher in a poor neighborhood. Doing the lords work with both hand in your pockets.

  46. DJM--do you know of professors being given the names of minority students under otherwise blind grading regimes so that they could raise their grades? A charge has been made that affects minority students and professors. What do you know of this?

  47. dybbuk/10:51, very interesting comparison with the housing bubble. Along the same lines, it may be but a matter of time before failing law schools start looking for a gov-funded bailout. Given how strong the "higher ed for everybody" mantra resonates with the political class, they may actually get it. And as with the housing bubble, the bailouts will go to the perpetrators, in this case the scammers. The unemployed JDs will be left out in the cold, with massive non-dischargeable debt - at least the victims of the housing bubble had the option to walk away.

  48. 9:31, I have *never* been told the race of any students I graded, at either of the law schools where I've taught. Nor have I ever heard of this practice at any other law school. The only practice remotely resembling this (that may have given rise to this rumor?) is that many schools grade JD and LLM students on different scales. Even if the scales are the same, we grade the groups separately so the LLMs don't affect the JD curve.

    When I grade a set of exams, I know which ones are from JD students and which ones are from LLM students. But I have no evidence--of any type--about the identity or individual characteristics of students in either group. I can't imagine that the situation is different at other schools--I certainly hope it is not.

  49. @6:21am

    "They're not dumber, they're not worse students, we just consistently stack the deck against them."

    I think that's phrased incorrectly. They are not as intelligent, but they clearly ARE worse students if they didn’t meet the criteria for entrance and suffer once they are admitted. Weren't there recent posts lamenting that now lesser qualified candidates were being admitted to the same law schools we all graduated from? That's why race, religion, gender should not matter -- can you qualify on your own intellectual merits or not? That should be the only question. But the schools LOVE to tout their minority numbers -- as do firms. My former firm sent 3 white females (one is a lesbian) to a minority ABA conference and they couldn’t get a meeting with a single client. Why? Being gay or female alone isn't even enough anymore. Some clients even require "minority billing" where a certain percentage of their work MUST be billed by a minority attorney.

    The above obviously harms the individual as well as the institutions, but the real harm is what is done to these students who are being led to believe they can make it intellectually. It is cruel and inhumane. There are plenty of minorities who are qualified. If an applicant isn't, it is terrible to use them for your stats and then discard them when you are finished with them.

    1. The black students being admitted to T14 law schools are far from bumbling idiots.

      They are qualified and many go on to have great success at their firms. If they do not, it often results from self-selection into other firms or in-house positions for which the clients of their 1A employers recruit them. The discrimination they often experience at biglaw firms results in a self-fulfilling prophesy, but in no way are they les intelligent than their white and Asian comparators.

      If you want to talk about lack of relative "preparedness", that's another story; I would agree with you to a large degree. But the bell-curve theory to which so many of you Sander deciples stubbornly adhere is old and tired, and has been disproved time and again. URM students in general are not trained from an early age to master the English language, which is the centerpiece to all education. That's where the problem starts and continues to fester. A black lawyer posted that "black lawyers suffer the worse [sic]."

      A concerted effort to teach black and Hispanic children to master the English language will go a long ways towards removing the inequities in education and better preparing lawyers of color.

  50. DJM -- This is 9:31. Thanks for your response. That's good to know.

  51. I could always make a legal ethics professor slightly uncomfortable by quoting Henry Drinker (of Drinker Biddle - whose profile of him is a remarkable piece of evasion), the many who was behind the original ABA ethics rules as to what the ethics rules and the bar exam were for:

    "Drinker complained publicly of lawyers who had come “up out of the gutter,” and who were “merely following the methods their fathers had been using in selling shoe-strings and other merchandise.” His particular concern was those he referred to as “Russian Jew boys.” Drinker’s own ethical sensitivity is illustrated further by his analysis of the meaning of “conduct involving moral turpitude” as a ground for professional discipline. A case that Drinker considered “difficult” to judge in terms of moral turpitude was that of a lawyer who had participated in the lynching of an African-American. ... Another close case of “moral turpitude” in Drink- er’s view was that of a bona fide conscientious objector who had refused to further the war effort."

    which also notes that:

    The Canons were not inspired purely by disinterested concerns with improving the ethical conduct of lawyers. Rather, they were largely motivated by the influx of Catholic immigrants from Italy and Ireland and Jews from Eastern Europe in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Just as labor unions of the time joined in demanding restrictive immigration laws to restrain competition for jobs, the established bar adopted educational require- ments, standards of admission, and “canons of ethics” designed to maintain a predominantly native-born, white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant monopoly of the legal profession. It is not coincidental that immigration into the United States reached an all-time peak in 1908, the year the Canons were promulgated by the ABA.

    As Jerold Auerbach has shown in his excellent book, Unequal Justice, leaders of the bar left no doubt about why the new Canons of Professional Ethics were necessary. “What concerns us,” said a member of a bar admissions committee, “is not keeping straight those who are already members of the Bar, but keeping out of the profession those whom we do not want.” In other public statements, establishment lawyers identified the ethical threat as second- generation Americans who, they said, “are almost as divorced from American life and American traditions as though they and their parents had never departed from their native lands.” Because of the “historical derivation” of these new citizens, “it will be impossible that they should appreciate what we understand as professional spirit.” As if these failings were not enough, the pained observation was made of these aspiring lawyers that even their “gestures are unwholesome and over-commercialized.”

  52. There are some excellent questions here about the data. Let me answer them as best I can--not necessarily in order, because I have some information more readily at hand.

    4:21 a.m., thank you for your good question about why I used just the California and NY data, together with a reference to an older national study. The racial disparities on bar performance are so well known to law faculties that I forgot to explain background on the data.

    Very few states regularly publish race-related statistics on bar passage. California is one of the few that does, so I cited their most recently available figures. I've skimmed a few of their earlier reports (for both February and July) and the patterns are remarkably consistent. Overall pass rates vary between February and July, and to some extent over the years, but the pattern of White candidates outperforming minorities is uniform. The success order among minority groups is also consistent over time.

    Although other states don't routinely publish race-based statistics, most of them have studied their bar exams to determine whether changes in the exam (raising the passing score, adding the MPT) have affected minorities disproportionately. For those states, only these occasional reports are available. I used the NY one because it was relatively recent and represents such a large bar.

    The national study I referred to is the most recent information we have on a national level. It's a landmark study, datawise, if you're interested in either the bar exam or minority success in and after law school. Its findings closely track the more recent NY and California studies on bar outcomes for different race groups.

    Unfortunately, I've never seen a bar passage report that broke down results by race and gave different results than the ones I reported here. But now that you raise the question, I'm curious to check out some smaller states and/or those with different racial compositions than NY or CA--not because I think these data are unrepresentative but because maybe there are some clues out there about situations in which this gap doesn't appear. Thanks again for the good question.

  53. @11:22: I mean that minority applicants are not ex ante any less intelligent or worse students.

  54. My experience over 45 years was the same as DJM.

  55. Gee, MacK, what kind of law school did you go to? It was an article of faith with my ethics professor, and others, that the ethics rules were created in response to the influx of immigrant lawyers. Drinker's crude and foul language startles--perhaps that is what made your prof uncomfortable? That is quite enough, of course, but it could really be the only thing because the notion of class bias in the creation of the Canons of Ethics is not very controversial at all.

    What is more interesting is that we seem to be arriving at the same point that the graduates, professors, and lawyers from elite schools were back at the turn of the last century; law is a profession for the upper classes. They hated the kind of schools that people are now saying should all be closed. They did not want them opened to begin with. Harvard, Yale, and a handful other schools, could provide lawyers for the elite firms and to serve in government once the regulatory state got going. Everyone else had to make do with the state and regional schools that would serve a less illustrious clientele.

  56. My observation from years in BigLaw - there is real discrimination against minorities, especially African Americans. Do not go to law school if you are a very bright African American. No matter how smart and how good you are, the odds are you get screwed in the legal profession. Sure there are some exceptions, but the rule is that African Americans get screwed. In alternate professions like medicine and dentistry, there is less discimination. The legal profession is stacked against most people because of the huge number of lawyers and small number of jobs. If you are a minority, it is doubly stacked against you, so think carefully about whether you really want to take the risk.

  57. 12:19PM

    The ethics professor in question was a rather old and very white and waspy adjunct, somewhat southern. He personally had an argument with his students over the disbarring of a junior associate who had failed to report the very "white shoe" partner he worked for's misconduct - the associate was permanently disbarred, the partner let back after 3 years and a sorry...

  58. 7:57 a.m., this is a very interesting question about the lower debt-level among Asian students. For the group in this study, the difference seems to lie in stronger family financial support. Another "After the JD" publication lists the different types of support that graduates drew upon to finance legal education. This report is at Table 10.1 is the one that lists sources of financing.

    22% of Asian students received some of their law school support from a parent or other relative. 14% of White students received that support, as did 9% of Hispanics and 5% of Blacks. The report doesn't distinguish private and public school grads on this point, so there's no way to know for sure about Asian students disproportionately attending public universities. But the numbers here point strongly toward a comparatively high level of family support.

    Another interesting point about these sources of support: At the time covered by this study (students in school 1997-2000), Black students were the only ones to receive a significant number of scholarships or grants. 18% of them received a law school scholarship or grant compared to 5% of Hispanics, 5% of Asians, and 6% of Whites. This was just before the advent of massive discounting and merit scholarships.

    Looking at the figures overall, the scholarships of that time brought Black students close to even financially (as a category) with Whites and Asians at graduation. Blacks had more scholarships, while Whites and Asians had more family support; all three groups took out loans to make up the difference.

  59. I remember talking to one of my (white) friends early in the year, and he mentioned two things: that our (fourth tier) law school had a lot of black students, and the black students tended to sit in the front of every single class which didn't have a seating chart (I hypothesized to myself later that this is what the 2 week LS prep class told them to do).

    Another sort of event where well-meaning liberals end up hurting those who they meant to help.

  60. DJM-- what has been your experience with black students at Ohio State? Do you have any contact with BLSA? They may be interested in the findings you present here today.

  61. Heritage aside, the JD is a kiss of death for entry into the minor leagues of paralegal law.

    You need not take my word for it. There are plenty of want ads on record for paralegal positions that explicity said: "No JD's"

  62. No answer. On to the next post.

  63. Couldn't get this past the spam filter, so I'll break it in two pieces. Today had more distractions than I thought it would, so here are just a few additional thoughts:

    Rick Sander's article on affirmative action and the bar exam is essential reading on this subject. He raises thoughtful, important points. The paper is at But if you're interested in this subject, you should also read David Wilkins' response, available on ssrn at Both Sander and Wilkins also write quite a bit about the legal profession: you may find their other articles interesting.

    Many of the minority students I've taught over the years tell me about discrimination they've experienced in law firms and other employment settings. Those stories, all quite specific and believable, come from racial minorities of all groups--Black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American. There's lots of scholarship in this area as well. Wilkins has written numerous pieces on this topic, detailing the kind of systemic problems that minority lawyers face. Sander has also written on this subject; as with his law school piece, he suggests that affirmative action is the underlying problem--but he agrees with Wilkins and others that minority lawyers face significant obstacles in law firms.

  64. And one final (depressing) reference. I stumbled across this article just today: "Marooned: An Empirical Examination of Law School Graduates Who Fail the Bar Exam" by Jane Yakowitz. How's that for a morbid title? DON'T read this article if you're currently studying for the bar--as a commenter noted above, attitude affects performance, and you need the home-stretch psyche right now.

    But for others, Yakowitz offers some interesting insights (including some race-related data) on those who fail the bar. Yakowitz doesn't address the current crisis in legal education, but her discussion prompts this comparison: The financial disasters that used to swamp bar-failers now overwhelm a significant proportion of students (of all races) who *pass* the bar. Today, going to law school may be as disastrous financially as failing the bar was fifteen years ago. How's that for progress?

  65. Do you suggest to black students that they should not have come to law school?

  66. 7:25, no more so than I do to students of other races. I have been counseling students and 0Ls for many years on the riskiness of attending law school. My current rule of thumb is that law school is a risky (and, at this point, unwise) proposition for any student who anticipates loans totaling more than the school's published "median" salary. For Moritz, that's currently $60,000.

    Law school is also unwise for students who lack solid reasons for why they want to be lawyers. And there are quite a number of law schools (like Cooley) that any student would be foolish to attend today at any price. But I hope to say more about all of this in a full post soon.

  67. Great. Thanks for answering. It will be interesting to read what you have to say.

  68. But i was curious about doing a special post about black students, if you don't have any special advice for them about how to handle the entry into the legal profession. I know someone in the comments referenced the outreach to minorities, but lots of references are made that don't get turned into specific posts. It would be interesting to see how the black students at your school will respond to your post and the comments it has elicited. I suppose they will see it.

  69. Or I should say, special post about minority students.

  70. 7:58, I don't think the Black students at Ohio State will respond differently than students at other schools. If students at any school have comments, I encourage them to contact me.

    The original post responds to the fact that defenders of the status quo use "access" to defend some of their bad practices. And, as the reader suggested in the email I quoted at the top of the post, these claims are increasing as pressure mounts on schools to restrict enrollment and cut costs. My post suggests that the "access" defense fails: spiraling tuition in a bad job market hurts minority students even more than Whites.

    Going forward, I would place the burden on law schools (not minority students themselves) to increase access in real ways. Leaping tuition and LSAT-based scholarships have not increased access. Lowering tuition would increase access (and, of course, accomplish other good things). Scholarships based on family wealth (not just income) would also provide more realistic access to minority students--as well as to underprivileged White students.

    I would also maintain pressure on the profession. As individual graduates attest, and the articles by Wilkins and others document more comprehensively, minorities suffer from all types of unconscious stereotyping in the workplace. Those stereotypes lead to less demanding work assignments, less mentoring, and--ultimately--quicker exits from law firms and some other organizations. Minority graduates have developed some coping mechanisms, such as the ones described in comments here, but I think employers need to do some hard introspection.

  71. Why focus on race at all? If people of any race want to spend money on an American law school education they should. The risk is the same regardless of color--they have an equal chance to make their lives worse off then when they began their pursuit of a legal education. Too much emphasis is put on bar passage and even law school education--bar testing and law school education are not typically the same thing as practicing law, so I can never judge what someone passing the bar or with high law school grades can/cannot do. What is clear is if you don't pass the bar or graduate law school in most states, you don't get licensed(the only real connection I find to actual law practice).

    I could have sworn we were all talking weeks ago about how law school education needs to improve so it provides more practical, real world legal experience. Yet, suddenly today the current law school/bar testing model is enough to judge someone's competence to practice real law. How did this mental switch happen?

  72. DJM-- The focus is still interesting because, as you must know, enrollment of minorities in law school has been declining in the past several years. There have been numerous articles about this. You would think from the post, and the comments, that American law schools are teeming with black students when that is not the case. Cooley is not an example of what is going on in most American law schools. But it is being used as if it were.

  73. DJM - Do you or for that matter anyone else know of any studies that have attempted to find correlations between LSAT scores and bar passage rates? Or law school class rank? Also it would be interesting to know if LSAT performance was more tightly correlated to bar passage than rank in your graduating class or the law school you attended. What if graduates of a number of law schools with the same LSAT had the same bar passing rate? Would this mean that passing the bar was simply a function of your underlying verbal intelligence and the law school you attended had no effect at all? Interesting if we had any data on these questions. William Ockham

  74. No, passing the bar means you have a pulse.

  75. 10:17 - There is data on correlations between LSAT and class rank (but I am not in a position to give you the references anymore). The gist is that class rank is a better predictor of passing the bar than the LSAT. This is expected because most law schools structure their tests such that they are similar to the bar. In contrast, the LSAT is not similar to the bar at all (other than it is timed and it is multiple choice).

  76. There is, apparently, a correlation between LSAT scores and first year grades.

  77. How can there be a correlation between LSAT and grades when all grading is done on a curve? I got a great LSAT, but I was firmly in the center of the pack gradewise at my "t14" school. Meanwhile, somebody who got a 140 and went to Cooley could be valedictorian there. It just doesn't really hold up.

  78. "You would think from the post, and the comments, that American law schools are teeming with black students when that is not the case. Cooley is not an example of what is going on in most American law schools. But it is being used as if it were."

    No, you would think from the post that law schools *target* minorities and use their inclusion as a justification for what is otherwise bottom-feeding. If law schools were teeming with minorities, there wouldn't be such an emphasis on winding ways to "diversify" the law.

  79. @ 6:03 PM (JDP) who writes, "... JD is a kiss of death for entry into ... paralegal law.... want ads for paralegal positions ...explicity said: "No JD's""

    Now, now. We know this is not true because Jack Marshall says that "many, many law firms will hire a JD as a paralegal".

    Sheesh, what a goober. (Marshall in this case, not referring to JDP here.)

  80. There is, apparently, a correlation between LSAT scores and first year grades.

    Or, to put it differently, the fact that class rank is a better predictor of bar passage than LSAT score does not necessarily mean that LSAT score is not a good predictor of bar passage.

  81. 9:01 AM writes "The focus is still interesting because, as you must know, enrollment of minorities in law school has been declining in the past several years. There have been numerous articles about this. "

    I'd be interested to see any of these numerous articles. I suspect that these numerous articles all run from / quote / cite one very poorly researched NYTimes article by Lewin that the above-mentioned professor Jane Yakowitz referred to (in a rebuttal) as being [I am paraphrasing from memory here] "wrong in every conclusion and got the facts all wrong as well".

  82. ^^^ Apologies, posted above before finishing my thought. I should have concluded by noting Professor Yakowitz has real data cited that would appear to clearly Lewin's unsupported contentions that minority LS enrollment is dropping.

  83. Ten seconds with Google and the intertoobs turned up the following snippets (but be careful, they're also selling stuff here)...

    " by The National Jurist shows there is a clear correlation between incoming LSAT scores and bar exam performance."


    "...While the LSAT is primarily designed to measure success in law school, it has long been known that law school success predicts bar exam success. As such, most law schools have bar exam pass rates that correlate to their incoming LSAT scores...."

  84. Speaking of the LSAT, I'd be interested in the bloggers' thoughts on Bill Henderson's article in the current ABA Journal ("The Pedigree Problem: Are Law School Ties Choking the Profession?").

  85. Jack Marshall of ethics alarms also noted that the law school scam doesn't really exist - rather it's made up by disgruntled law grads who can't find jobs with their magical, versatile degrees. And according to Jack Marshall, top law schools don't have to manipulate stats, as they have more than enough overqualified applicants.

    Jack Marshall knows what he is talking about. Jack Marshall is right. He's right. He's right. He's right.

  86. You've said it all beautiful. Such kind of post really helpful for the Study Loan.


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