AccessLex Institute Research

Title

Improving Diversity in the Delaware Bench and Bar

Document Type

Issue/Research Brief/Blog

Publication Date

2-2022

Keywords

lawyer demographics, enrolled student demographics, law school diversity, diversity pipeline programs, bar exam alternatives, minimum competence

Abstract

On May 13, 2021, the Delaware Supreme Court adopted an administrative order establishing a Diversity Strategic Planning effort to address diversity issues in the Delaware legal community and to serve as a national model that other court systems could adapt to address their own jurisdiction-specific diversity challenges. Pursuant to its order the Delaware Supreme Court created a steering committee and five working groups to examine considerations and needs from pre-college efforts to appointments to the bench. Additionally, the Delaware Supreme Court enlisted the assistance of the National Center for State Courts and AccessLex to provide subject matter expertise, data analysis, facilitate work groups, and conduct additional interviews.

The lack of diversity in the legal profession and judiciary can be traced to two primary causes. First, people of color are underrepresented in colleges, universities, and law schools. The lack of diversity can be attributed to hurdles to educational advancement including institutional biases, achievement gaps, and the lack of early exposure to career opportunities in the legal field. These problems begin long before students apply to law school and extend at least through the time when they take the bar exam. Second, assuming all pipeline issues are addressed and students of color graduate from law school and pass the Bar Exam, new attorneys of color entering the legal profession generally find insufficient support and limited opportunities to achieve standing at the highest level of the profession.

This Strategic Plan presents to the Delaware Supreme Court a series of both programmatic and policy recommendations that if adopted, in collaboration with others can improve the diversity of the Delaware legal profession, over time.

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A mini-documentary offering additional insights from court leaders and project partners can be found here.

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