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March 15, 2022

Benefits of Community College Pre-Law Pathway Programs

Community college pre-law pathway programs introduce community college students to career opportunities that many have never dreamed about. Many successful lawyers and judges started their higher education career at a community college. The following video provides testimonials from judges and lawyers who attended a community college before entering the legal profession.

There are multiple benefits for establishing a pre-law program. Here is a list of the most common benefits for the various stakeholders:

For Students:

A pathway program will provide students with information and skills training to prepare them for a legal education, including the application process and taking the LSAT test. Students will prepare for the challenges of a legal education, such as financial factors and the dedication required to successfully navigate the rigors of law school. Students will also gain insights into the profession by visiting courts and law firms, network with attorneys and judges, and connect with mentors. Throughout this program, students will be in an encouraging environment that increases student confidence which nurtures their self-esteem. Plus, they will be learning among peers with common goals to build a positive support network.  

For Community College Counselors and Professors:

Counselors and professors, especially those who teach law-related courses, will have access to the same information as the students. In addition, counselors and professors will be able to collaborate with college and law school experts and build contacts with attorneys and judges. Accordingly, counselors and professors can develop creative programs to provide students with more experiences to facilitate their progress through a Pre-Law program. 

For Parents and Family Members:

Family members will also have access to the same information as the students to better understand the path chosen by the student. They will comprehend the academic, emotional, and financial challenges of the student, and be better prepared to provide support.  They should also be made aware of the options for financing legal education.

In addition to benefits for the community college community, creating a pre-law program offers multiple benefits for the community at large. 

Benefits to the Community:

The benefits of having a more diverse legal profession are numerous. Community members will have more access to diverse lawyers, especially lawyers who might speak their native language and understand cultural distinctions. A community might have more diverse representation since many political leaders are graduates from law school. A community would also have more diverse role-models for younger generations to pursue higher education. 

Access to Justice:

There is a well-documented need to provide legal services to those families below the federal poverty level. Studies have shown that these individuals have substantial legal matters and many of them go unresolved. More lawyers are needed to serve this “justice gap”.

Expanding Equity & Inclusion Opportunities in the Community:

Most community colleges enroll a substantial number of students from diverse backgrounds. In order to support its students, most community colleges strive to increase equity opportunities and create inclusive learning environments. Many community colleges have launched “call to actions” to reduce the effects of structural racism. One of the ways to accomplish this goal is through the legal system. Creating a pre-law  program provides opportunities for students to discussed structural racism and eventually work toward dismantling this system. [See attached California Community Colleges Call to Action, June 2021]

Increasing Diversity and Identifying Diverse Candidates for the Legal Profession:

 Law schools will be able to trace the pre-law pathways of these community college graduates and more easily recruit these students. Having more diverse students in law school contributes to the need for greater diversity in the legal profession. Data from the American Bar Association and almost all states show a disproportionate number between the diversity of the members of the community and the diversity of attorneys and judges. In the ABA Profile of the Legal Profession 2020 [hyperlink to report in Addendum], the report showed that:   

  • Nearly all people of color are underrepresented in the legal profession compared with their presence in the U.S. population. For example, 5% of all lawyers are African American – the same percentage as 10 years earlier – but the U.S. population is 13.4% African American.  
  • Similarly, 5% of all lawyers are Hispanic – up from 4% a decade earlier – although the U.S. population is 18.5% Hispanic.  
  • Only 2% of all lawyers are Asian – up slightly from 1.6% 10 years earlier – while the U.S. population is 5.9% Asian. 
  •  Native Americans are represented in the legal profession at roughly the same proportion as their presence in the general population. Less than one-half of 1 percent of all lawyers (0.4%) are Native American – down slightly from 0.7% a decade ago – while the U.S. population is 1.3% Native American.