Not for Free: Exploring the Collateral Costs of Diversity in Legal Education
student diversity impact, diverse campus environment, incoming indicators, law school diversity
This essay examines some of the institutional costs of achieving a more diverse law student body. In recent decades, there has been growing support for diversity initiatives in education, and the legal academy is no exception. Yet for most law schools, diversity remains an elusive goal, some of which is the result of problems with anticipating the needs of diverse students and being able to deliver. These are some of the unseen or hidden costs associated with achieving greater diversity. Both law schools and the legal profession remain relatively stratified by race, which is an ongoing legacy of legal education’s origins as a project dominated by white male elites predominantly serving white male clients. Today’s law schools still lack in diversity, but major developments are increasingly changing student demographics. Perhaps the first push toward diversification of law schools came after the 1920s, when women won suffrage and began to enroll in law school in increasing numbers. Advocacy efforts over the next century would produce many breakthroughs, including in the present,where an unprecedented three women sit on the Supreme Court. With the creation of The Historically Black College/University (“HBCU”) law schools, which enrolled significant numbers of African American students, Civil Rights legislation and court cases in the 1950s and 1960s paved the way for a growing number of ethnic minorities to apply to law school and for a female explosion of matriculants. Today’s diversity initiatives seek to create classrooms with profiles based on a range of intellect and experience as a means to enhance learning for all students. As such, diversity may be understood as supporting the marketplace of ideas concept by seeking to create an environment where study and problem solving draw from a broad range of knowledge and experience. Law schools are also enrolling individuals with lower credentials to assuage the sting of lower enrollment. Maintaining and servicing diverse student bodies inevitably incurs downstream costs. This essay attempts to offer a snapshot of some the administrative, pedagogical, and regulative costs involved, and provide commentary on how law schools might meet these challenges.