Legal Profession


Implicit Bias and the Legal Profession's 'Diversity Crisis': A Call for Self-Reflection

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



implicit bias in the legal profession


Racial and gender disparities persist in the legal profession. A 2013 study commissioned by Microsoft revealed that the diversity gap in the U.S. legal profession has worsened, lagging behind other professions. While many efforts have been undertaken, diversity remains elusive. One reason the diversity efforts have been unsuccessful may be due to a lack of focus on a key reason for the persistent disparities—the “reforms are unlikely to stick until people understand how race actually operates in the brain. The goal of this article is to apply social science insights to understand and address the diversity “crisis.” Social science studies demonstrate that the continued underrepresentation of women and minorities in the legal profession is unlikely due predominately to explicit or “first generation bias,” which involves “deliberate exclusion or subordination directed at identifiable members of disfavored groups Rather, this bias has been supplanted by “second generation” forms of bias, which are attributable to implicit bias.