- Jan 2, 2022
Well, my father's dead, so I'll have to wait for his opinion for a while. I can't speak for whether AA is responsible or not, but I do feel that while African Americans are considerably less underrepresented in the legal profession than they were in 1970. But still severely underrepresented.Interesting.
And how do you -- or your father -- view that all as having turned out?
This article mentions that "the U.S. Census estimated that there were 4,000 black lawyers in 1970; in 1980, about 15,700; in 1990, 24,700, and, according to estimates from the end of 2005, now 44,800." Currently, that number is at about 66,500, or about five percent of the total. Of course, the total number of lawyers has increased a great deal in that time as well, so the percentages are significant: 1970, 1.3%, 1980, 2.8%, 1990, 3.2%, 2005, 4.1%. Since 2010, that percentage has been pretty much static at about 4.8%.
The biggest increase happened between 1970 and 1980, where the total number increased by more than four times and the percentage of the whole more than doubled. While I can't say that affirmative action was responsible for the increase, that was the time that affirmative action was being applied most aggressively to admissions, before the backlash about reverse discrimination began in the mid 80s (I don't have an opinion on whether or not that backlash was justified; there are good arguments on both sides) and beyond.
Given that 13% of Americans are African-American, and less than five percent of lawyers are African-American, there's still a significant gap there. Part of the problem is that African-Americans as a whole are (still, sadly) overrepresented among the poor, and therefore underrepresented by the legal profession. The average lawyer is paying off a $75,000 loan, and so can't afford to represent the poor even if he or she wants to.
To address the general problem of areas of law being under-served because they don't pay well, the Notre Dame Law School started the Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which provides assistance in paying off student loans for students who are practicing law in areas that don't allow them to make enough to pay their loans. My father very much believed in the program. He was involved in its design, and gave it considerable financial support as well.