City Bar Report Offers Recommendations to Fix Disparities for Black and Latinx Students in the Legal Pipeline

Two November Panels to Discuss Report Findings

Having found in previous research that breaches in the “student pipeline” disproportionately affect Black and Latinx students who might otherwise be candidates for becoming attorneys, the New York City Bar Association has released a new report with recommendations for fixing the pipeline.

The aim of these recommendations is “to build upon the existing understanding of barriers to entry in the legal profession, and examine ways law-specific pipeline programs support successful outcomes for Black and Latinx/Hispanic participants.”

The report by research consultant Ashley Bernal – “The Diversity Gap: Black and Latinx Representation Disparities in the Legal Pipeline” – is the result of a qualitative research study commissioned by the City Bar, consisting of over 50 hours of in-depth interviews with Black and Hispanic/Latinx law students and lawyers.

In the report, study participants relate their experiences and identify failings in the pipeline to the legal profession. “It was overwhelmingly reported that Black and Latinx/Hispanic aspiring attorneys were not aware that pipeline programs were available,” the report states. In addition, study participants “consistently spoke of the financial burden for pursuing a career in law.” The report notes that many Black and Latinx lawyers share a perception that they are funneled into public interest work and away from more lucrative opportunities in Big Law firms.

The report examines barriers to equity throughout the legal career path, including “[preparation] for the intellectual rigor of law school,” difficulty “‘fitting in’ or being able to have conversations with those in positions of power,” and a “culture” in the legal profession that excluded them “from equal access to success in law school and beyond.”

The report makes six recommendations – which the City Bar intends to implement in phases – for empowering pipeline programs to increase their efficacy in recruiting Black and Latinx/Hispanic candidates to become attorneys:

1. Developing a program akin to the City Bar’s Office for Diversity & Inclusion’s “signatory firm” structure. This includes creating a system, with incentives, where pipeline programs commit to working with the City Bar to increase visibility of available programs to Black and Latinx/Hispanic aspiring attorneys by focusing on expanding recruitment efforts to more New York-area schools and successful completion of legal pipeline participation spanning from middle school to law school.

2. Creating a digital, centralized location for all pipeline programs available to New York-based students, organizing the platform where students at each educational level are directed to a subsequent program based on area of concentration.

3. Encouraging each New York-based college-prep high school, undergraduate and law school to develop pre-law seminars that acclimate Black and Hispanic/Latinx students to law school before entering their 1L year. In addition, encouraging 3L or recent graduates to mentor 1L students as they transition into law school.

4. Developing a network for Black and Hispanic/Latinx pipeline program alumni for New York-based programs. The network would serve as a resource for: building relationships among Black and Latinx students; connecting Black and Hispanic/Latinx students to other affinity groups, such as BLSA and LLSA; job opportunities; networking; and mentorship matching.

5. Recommending alternative program schedules and structures to accommodate non-traditional students with rigid work schedules. This includes offering online courses or evening programs for those students who are required to work outside of school.

6. Assembling an accountability task force to monitor outcomes for Black and Hispanic/Latinx participants in “signatory” pipeline programs.

The report can be read here:

The City Bar Office for Diversity & Inclusion will host a two-part series of programs – under the Chatham House Rule – in which pipeline program leaders will discuss the findings of the study on which the report is based, along with the study’s principal researcher and study participants:

The Diversity Gap: Black and Latinx Representation Disparities in the Legal Pipeline
Part I – Pipeline Leaders, November 17
Part II – Study Participants, November 24

About the Association
The mission of the New York City Bar Association, which was founded in 1870 and has 25,000 members, is to equip and mobilize a diverse legal profession to practice with excellence, promote reform of the law, and uphold the rule of law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest in our community, our nation, and throughout the world.