Committee Reports

The Diversity Gap: Black and Latinx Representation Disparities in the Legal Pipeline


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.