Friday, December 03, 2021

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Article Index

IV. KEEPING THE PIPELINES FLOWING: SOLUTIONS

The pipeline to law school and into the legal profession starts at elementary school. Because numerous obstacles derail African American males at an early age from the path to obtaining a legal education, school districts should develop programs that enhance their academic offerings and increase the number of African American males graduating from high school and proceeding to college.

Law schools, bar associations, private organizations, and law firms must continue to develop programs to increase the number of minority law students in order to increase the number of African American male students in the pipelines to enter the legal profession. These programs must aim especially at recruitment and retention of African American male students. Even so, law schools must take bold new steps to develop potential African American male applicants. Pre-law development programs may need to start in elementary or at least middle school and should be designed specifically for African American boys.

The overuse or misuse of the LSAT continues to negatively impact the admission of African American students to law school. Law schools should place less emphasis on LSAT scores and more on other predictors for success in law school. For example, the LSAC cites the following factors for law schools to consider, along with the LSAT scores: [a] strong letter of recommendation or personal statement, work experience, or community service that demonstrates a special interest or strength of character, diversity status ... graduate work or specialized studies ....

Law firms must reach beyond just the elite law schools and find diversity in other accredited law schools. Some initiatives include: developing mentoring programs, expanding summer clerkship programs to include African American males, and developing internal retention programs. Fortune 500 corporations should exert economic pressures on law firms to provide legal services by requiring law firms to have aggressive diversity plans to recruit, hire, and promote African American males and other minorities in the firm.

State and local bar associations should study and evaluate the status of African American male lawyers to determine whether more enter the profession today than in the past. Where African American male lawyers may confront roadblocks or obstacles, city or state bar associations should rally their members to actively support the advancement of African American lawyers into the field. For example, state bar associations could evaluate how judges and prosecutors are appointed and elected to determine whether the selection process negatively impacts African American lawyers. Because of their complexity, the pipelines to these positions require continual review. Judges and prosecutors, at all levels of the government, should also develop diversity plans.

The process of selecting judicial clerks should include a mechanism to ensure that hiring practices, though neutral, do not unintentionally exclude African American males and other minority groups from these prestigious legal positions within the court. The pool of qualified applicants must be expanded to ensure diversity.

Similarly, law schools must look beyond law professors who attended only certain law schools or served as judicial clerks when hiring tenure track law professor positions. Such systems further perpetuate the exclusion of qualified African American lawyers as law professors.

The various initiatives implemented by bar associations, law firms, and programs developed by law schools will not totally eliminate the barriers African American males face in their pursuit of a legal career. We must revamp our public education systems and incarceration policies to lessen the negative impact both systems have on the growth and development of African American male students.

Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law

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