In what is believed to be the first center on a law school campus devoted to studying diversity within the legal profession as well as the issues faced by people of color who practice law, CUNY School of Law in 2008 established the Center for Diversity in the Legal Profession.
The main purpose of the Center is to be a clearinghouse for data on the participation of people of color in the law, as well as to conduct original research, according to the Center's director, Professor Pamela Edwards. The Center publishes an e-newsletter on issues that affect the careers of people of color in the law. In addition, the Center will collaborate with other organizations that have activities designed to increase participation in the legal profession by people of color as well as by members of other communities historically under-represented in the legal profession.
In future years, the Center will sponsor workshops to help people in targeted demographic groups who have indicated an interest in entering the legal profession but have faced barriers to doing so.
"The time is ripe for this, and I'm so proud to be working on such an exciting new initiative that will benefit not only CUNY Law and the legal profession, but also communities of color and other under-served communities," Edwards said.
Decline of People of Color
The decline of African-American and Latino students in law school was a motivating factor in establishing the Center, she said.
While it appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s that some progress was being made toward the goal of bringing more people of color into the profession, the downturn of the numbers of students of color from certain ethnic groups in law school beginning in the late 1990s has clouded this improvement, Edwards said.
According to data published by the American Bar Association, African-American enrollment in law school peaked at 9,779 (6.9 percent of total law school enrollment) in the 1995-96 academic year. In the 2006-07 academic year, African-American enrollment was 9,529 (6.7 percent of total enrollment), up from 9,126 (6.5 percent of enrollment) the prior year. Similarly, Puerto-Rican enrollment peaked at 718 students in the 1994-95 academic year; in the 2006-07 academic year, Puerto Rican enrollment was 551 students, a 23 percent decline.
Simultaneously, the legal profession is one of the least diverse in the country. The 2000 U.S. Census revealed that attorneys of color represented 9.7 percent of all attorneys; meanwhile, people of color represented 20.8 percent of accountants and auditors, 24.6 percent of physicians and surgeons, and 18.2 percent of college and university professors.
Student and Faculty Participation
Students will have opportunities to participate in the Center's work by conducting research, attending workshops, and organizing events for peers and potential recruits to law schools around the metropolitan area.
The Center also hopes to establish a "pipeline" program in which current students from CUNY Law will serve as mentors for middle-school and high-school students interested in becoming lawyers.
Faculty will be invited to participate in the Center's workshops and conferences. Professor Edwards, whose research scholarship has focused on applying a critical race perspective to legal education issues, said her initial role with the center will involve making contact and establishing relationships with other organizations committed to diversity in the legal profession.
Northeast People of Legal Scholarship Conference
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Suffolk University Law School
Co-sponsored by the CUNY Center for Diversity in the Legal Profession
November 3, 2011 - The Center for Diversity in the Legal Profession is again co-sponsoring a workshop for prospective law teachers; this time, we are holding the workshop on Thursday, November 3, the day before the combined Northeast Regional People of Color Scholarship Conference/ Conference of Asian Pacific Law Faculty conference being held at Hofstra Law School.