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As Law School Applications Fall, the Whitest Profession Gets More Diverse

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on April 28, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the legal profession is the one of the least (if not the least) racially diverse professions in the nation -- 88 percent of lawyers are white. By contrast, 72 percent of surgeons and physicians are white.

But it looks like these numbers might shift in time. There's evidence to suggest that as law school applications fell in the last few years, the number of Latinos and Blacks rose by proportion.

Applications Are "Way Down"

In the words of NPR's Kelly McEvers, law school applications numbers are down -- "way down" -- at about half of where they were a decade ago. There was an online subculture amongst graduating students to discourage people from attending law school because the returns on the time and education investment did not seem to be as bright and sterling as they once were. Coincidentally, however, the numbers of black and Latino students applying to law school rose in proportion to the number of white and Asian application numbers that fell.

Increased Diversity, Increased Crippling Debt

The apparent upside, it seems, is that there should be a boost in racial diversity in what has traditionally been one of the least diverse professions in the white collar community. Since an overwhelming number of people convicted in the criminal justice system for high crimes and punishments are disproportionately not white (at least, in some states), it seems fair that the lawyers who could one day come to represent them can commiserate with their clients with regards to cultural background, language, and yes, even color.

It's not entirely a fairytale situation because grads are still looking at law school debts that are higher now than they ever have been in recent history. People who come from poor socio-economic backgrounds are particularly at risk and many of these applicants are the first of their families to even attend college. Without the financial support from family, many of these applicants could be taking a gigantic gamble that might not pay off in the end.

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