chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.


Underrepresented Representatives

Colemon L Potts

Imagine having a legal issue and going to court and no one within the court system, particularly the attorneys, look like you. Well, that’s an issue many minorities in America deal with daily.

I grew up in West Philadelphia, an area that was once predominantly black. I did not know of any minority male attorneys growing up. My first exposure with a minority male attorney was a teacher in high school, through a Law and Government magnet program.  In order to encourage my journey in the legal field, I used to sit in the back of courtrooms at the Fulton County Court in Atlanta, Ga. Because of the lack of minority male attorneys, I was hesitant to go up and ask questions or look for guidance and advice. When I think back, or think about present-day optics, I can only imagine how intimidating and uncomfortable it would be for someone with a real-life issue at stake whether it is in the criminal or civil realm of the justice system. Without even referring to statistics, it is well known that the Attorney profession is one of the least, or least, diverse profession in America.

When it comes to the criminal justice system, where minority males are grossly overrepresented as Defendants, the individuals who are available for representation, whether it is retained, or court-appointed counsel, don’t reflect the Defendants in a grossly disproportionate manner. From the outside looking in, this may not seem like a big issue because all attorneys take an oath and affirmation to engage injustice with a blind eye to race, color, and creed; but that oath alone may not be comforting to the people we are charged with representing. To describe it in other terms, just because an attorney speaks English does not necessarily means they speak your language. A part of administering justice is being able to relate to the client in some capacity in order to be able to fully understand the root of an issue and effectively communicate on their behalf.

As a member of the Men of Color project through the ABA Young Lawyers Division, we hope to address the issue of the lack of minority male attorneys and the steep decline in numbers of minority male attorneys entering and remaining in the legal profession. Balancing the scales of representation in justice should be a natural consequence of our efforts or we haven’t done our job.