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A new study found startling disparities between the experiences and levels of satisfaction of women of color in law schools compared with other student demographics. The examination was a joint undertaking from the NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education and the Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas at Austin.

law school studentThe report, “Women of Color: A Study of Law School Experiences” examines the challenges facing different types of law students as they work through myriad obstacles in their early academic and professional careers, according to the study. “We hope that the findings in this report spark important conversations among law schools and employers about ways to make the educational and career paths for law students more inclusive. This study is an important step in the right direction,” the report reads.

According to the organizations, a minority of the women of color (40%) polled see race relations at their law schools as “positive.” In contrast, that number jumps to 70% for white men, and nearly 60% for both men of color and white women.

FROM TWITTER

Adria Kimbrough @AttyAdria

"Study reports Black women (38%) most likely to consider leaving law school and rated their experience w/race relations in law schools less positively; even more than men of color. Dear Law School Deans: This is your moment and we are watching. Do better!"

The survey included 46 law schools and several “affinity” groups. According to the organizers, 4,084 students responded to the survey. Of them, 2,682 were female students and 773 of those were women of color. The students based their responses on their experiences during the 2017-2018 academic year. “The results in this report detail findings from a very comprehensive survey among law school students and demonstrates that not all women of color share the same experience during law school,” according to the NALP Foundation. The study also examined how grades, professional development and networks built while in law school impact the success of students as they enter the workforce.

“There is no shortage of alarming statistics about the lack of diversity at the highest levels of the legal profession,” according to the report. “Women of color are significantly underrepresented in legal organizations and law-related positions and leave these legal roles—especially at law firms—in alarming numbers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that women of color face more substantial barriers to success in the legal profession than do their white colleagues.”

Research from the NALP shows nearly 50% of law offices do not have even one woman of color as a partner. Other statistics provided in the survey include:

  • Less than half (45%) of women of color reported “never” experiencing “discrimination and/or unfair or different treatment due to race/ethnicity.” That same response was given by 53% of men of color.
  • For women of color, 25% said they “rarely” experience discrimination or unfair treatment based on race/ethnicity. That number drops slightly to 22% of women who said they “sometimes” experienced discrimination and 8% reported it “frequently” occurred.
  • For men of color, 30% said they experienced discrimination or unfair treatment “rarely,” while 13% said “sometimes” and 5% said “frequently.
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