Report on The Pipeline

Selected Facts & Statistics

Excerpts from the "Collaborating to Expand the Pipeline" Pre-Conference Report ( full-text pdf )

While racial and ethnic minorities make up approximately 30% of the U.S. population, they make up less then 15% of the practicing attorneys in this country. This racial divide will only become greater, as statistics project that by the year 2050, the United States will nearly be a "majority-minority" country, and the Latino population will exceed all of the other minority populations combined; a true demographic sea change.

High school is one point in the pipeline for which documentation of a differentiation exists for minorities. A 2004 report from The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University found that white high school students had a 74.9% graduation rate, compared to a 50.2% high school graduation rate for blacks. At 51.1%, graduation rates for American Indian high school students were slightly above blacks, while Hispanic students were at 53.2%. Asian/Pacific Islander students had the highest high school graduation rate, at 76.8%.

Examining the distribution of college degrees awarded provides another snapshot of the racial/ethnic disparity. For academic year 2002-03, white/non-Hispanic college students received 70% of the Bachelor of Science degrees conferred in Title IV degree-granting institutions. Black/non-Hispanic students earned 8.7% of college degrees that year; with comparable rates of 6.3 for Hispanics; 6.2% for Asian/Pacific Islanders; and 0.7 for American Indian/Alaska native.

The crisis in the pipeline to the legal profession continues in disproportionately lower application, enrollment, and graduation rates of minorities in U.S. law schools. In fall 2004, Caucasian/white students made up nearly 65% of all applicants to ABA-accredited law schools. That same group of applicants consisted of 10.6% African-Americans; 8.6% Asians, and 7.9% total for the combined Hispanic groups.

In the past decade, minority law school enrollment has hovered around 19-21% of all law school students. Interestingly, there was a notable one-year increase from 1993-94, when minorities were 17.8% of law school students, to 1994-95, when they made up 19.1% of law students. Such a sizeable increase in percentage points has not happened since then.

Comparable to the test to enter law school, the exam at the end of law school reveals another juncture in the pipeline that stymies aspiring attorneys of color. Bar passage rates for racially diverse law students are generally lower than whites, but the vast majority of all students who take the bar exam do eventually pass. The oft-cited 1998 LSAC National Longitudinal Bar Passage Study found that 94.8% of all students in the research group eventually passed the bar. Blacks had the lowest percentage rate, 77.6%, while Asian Americans, at 91.9%, had the highest among minority groups. White students in this study passed the bar exam at a 96.7% rate.