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New Study Blasts Affirmative Action at Law Schools

The Chronicle of Higher Education has run an article, "Does Affirmative Action Hurt Black Law Students?,"that confirms what we already know: namely, that educational mismatch occurs when racial preferences provide incentives for many aspiring law students to attend schools for which they are not well prepared. In a forthcoming Stanford Law Review article, UCLA law professor Richard H. Sander contends that there would be more successful black lawyers, both in terms of numbers attending law school and those passing the bar, if affirmative action was eliminated. His study, "A Systemic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools," concluded the following:

After the first year of law school, 51 percent of black students have grade-point averages that place them in the bottom tenth of their classes, compared with 5 percent of white students. "Evidence suggests that when you’re doing that badly, you’re learning less than if you were in the middle of a class" at a less-prestigious law school, Mr. Sander says.

Among students who entered law school in 1991, about 80 percent of white students graduated and passed the bar on their first attempt, compared with just 45 percent of black students. In a race-blind admissions system, the number of black graduates passing the bar the first time would jump to 74 percent, he says, based on his statistical analysis of how higher grades in less competitive schools would result in higher bar scores. Black students are nearly six times as likely as whites not to pass state bar exams after multiple attempts.

Ending affirmative action would increase the number of new black lawyers by 8.8 percent because students would attend law schools where they would struggle less and learn more, earn higher grades, and have better success on the job market.

With the exception of the most-elite law schools, good grades matter more to employers than the law school’s prestige.

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