Law School Admissions

Title

Assessing the Viability of Race-Neutral Alternatives in Law School Admissions

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date

7-2017

Keywords

legal education, admission, diversity, race

Abstract

Over the past several years, law schools have experienced many challenges stemming from declines in student enrollment due to a shrinking applicant pool. The declining number of applicants is particularly problematic for law schools seeking to educate students in racially diverse learning environments. In light of recent challenges to the constitutionality of race-conscious affirmative action and the likelihood that President Donald Trump will make several appointments to the Supreme Court—thereby shifting its balance toward the ideology of colorblindness—it is imperative to engage in a project that examines the relationship between racial categories and race-neutral identity factors in law-school admissions. Understanding the relationship between racial groups and certain race-neutral identity factors will help law schools comply with Fisher I’s mandate that universities consider race-neutral means for achieving diversity before using race as a factor in their admissions processes. This empirical study surveyed first-year law students at public American Bar Association approved law schools and asked them about race-neutral aspects of their identity, such as family background and educational-institution characteristics, to determine whether there is a relationship between their race and certain socioeconomic identity factors. The findings will enhance law schools’ understanding of race-neutral admissions factors that may contribute to their abilities to assemble racially diverse student bodies, and will give them tools to experiment with trying to yield racially diverse classes without asking applicants about their race.

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