Diversity and Inclusion in Law School and Higher Education

A New Minority? International JD Students in US Law Schools

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



student demographics, law school diversity, diverse campus environment


This Article reveals the significance of a new and growing minority group within US law schools - international students in the Juris Doctor (JD) program. While international students have received some attention in legal education scholarship, it mostly has been focused on their participation in the context of programs specially designed for this demographic (e.g. post-graduate programs like the LLM and SJD). Drawing from interview data with fifty-eight international JD students across seventeen graduating US law schools, our research reveals the rising importance of international students as actors within a more mainstream institutional context. Particularly, in examining the ways these students navigate their law school environments, we find that although international status often impacts identity and participation, not all students encounter its impact similarly. While some students use the identity to their advantage, others cannot escape negative implications, even with effort. This is consistent with other scholarship on minority students, and adds to a growing literature that uses their socialization experiences to better understand professional stratification. To unpack these different ways of “being international,” we borrow from Goffman’s theorization of stigma to suggest illustrative variations in the ways international students experience their environments. In doing so, we offer an introductory landscape to better understand this growing population and hope this enables new insights to theorize about other kinds of minority experience.