“I was really questioning, ‘Do I belong here? Can I make it in this environment?’ . . . [Then] I was walking through the yard in the evening and a Black woman I did not know was passing me on the sidewalk. And she looked at me, and I guess she knew how I was feeling, and she leaned over as we crossed and said, ‘Persevere.’”
—The Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson
“Today, when I look my students in the eyes, all I see are constellations. If you take the time to connect the dots, you can plot the true shape of their genius—shining in their darkest hour.”
Early on, I felt out of place in law school. No one in my family, even my extended family, is an attorney, so all I knew about the profession is what I saw around me. Unfortunately, Middle Eastern law students are hard to find in law schools around the country—my school was no exception. In writing this, I can recall very few instances of having or interacting with a Middle Eastern professor, staff member, or clinician, and I can think of very few instances in which a guest speaker was of Middle Eastern descent. Outside of the law school and into the profession was no different. Very few of the organizations I interviewed with had an employee of Middle Eastern descent—even fewer became my employer for any of my five internships throughout law school. This dearth of representation from my own demographic resulted in the intrusive and disconcerting thought, “Do I really belong in the profession?”
After only one semester, I seriously considered dropping out of school. Every indication screamed at me that I did not belong and would not succeed. No one looked like me. Nothing we read was written by someone who looked like me. Rather, it seemed that I could only be useful in the profession by “spying on the homeland.” Regardless, my photo would still be displayed in school publications and organization newsletters. Those publications gave the impression that I was having the time of my life and definitely not drafting an email to the Dean asking to withdraw from the school, leaving the profession behind.
Spoiler alert: I did not drop out. In fact, I graduated and believe I have done relatively well for myself. But I did not do so alone. I was fortunate to meet and become close with several wonderful people who, consciously or not, mentored and convinced me that my voice mattered, that I did belong, and that I could succeed. None made me conform to any idea of what an attorney was supposed to look like, write like, or talk like. Even when this group of people spanned many demographics and included the likes of judges and justices, professors, law school administrators, and partners at firms, they all treated me as a valuable part of their lives, went out of their way to make sure I felt heard, and often applied my ideas or suggestions. All of them worked to counsel, guide, and amplify what I had to say. All worked to help show me that people like me have a voice that should be heard in this profession.
As fortunate as I am to have such wonderful people in my life, I am not naïve enough to think this is always the case for minoritized law students. Although I was privileged to encounter people who amplified my voice throughout law school, studies consistently indicate that women and people of color are more likely to have a low sense of belonging not only in law school, but also out in the profession. This low sense of belonging negatively impacts academic success, engagement in the profession, and even achievement in the profession. In turn, minoritized students continue to be barred from various opportunities and career paths, effectively bleached out of the profession.
All students should be able to see themselves and their communities reflected in the curriculum at various times throughout their legal education, especially in lawyering skills courses. This essay discusses how small changes in course materials can have large, long-lasting impacts that help all students see that they belong in the profession and can succeed. Part I discusses the importance of diversity in the legal profession, highlighting the profession’s historical struggle with representation. Part II discusses the role that law school curriculum plays in the sense of belonging, or lack thereof, that minoritized students feel. Part III discusses how amplifying diverse voices improves educational outcomes, bolsters an attorney’s ability to practice, and upholds the profession’s ideals. Finally, Part IV provides an abbreviated how-to guide for law professors who teach lawyering skills courses, providing simple, manageable avenues to reach this attainable goal.
I. The Profession’s Struggle with Representation
“How many times must we be made to feel like quotas, like tokens in coined phrases: ‘diversity and inclusion.’”
To contextualize the legal profession’s struggle with representation, consider this visual of the demographic representation within the most prestigious position in the legal profession:
Unfortunately, the country’s highest court is not alone in failing to fully represent the country’s diversity. Regrettably, the numbers are staggering. For instance, although the 2020 U.S. Census indicated that over fifty percent of the country identifies as female, only about 37% of lawyers are women. Although the Census indicated that over 13% of the country identifies as Black or African American, less than 5% of all lawyers are Black. Although the CDC estimates that over 25% of the country has some type of disability, only about 1% of lawyers report having a disability. And although polls indicate that about 6% of the country identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community, only about 3% of the legal profession identifies as part of that community. This minoritized group disparity continues to hold true across the entire profession, including in judicial positions, law firm partners, and law school faculty.
This disparity, however, does not match the current demographic of law school students. Today, more than half of all law students are women and about one-third of students are people of color. In fact, the Law School Admission Council (“LSAC”), the non-profit organization heavily involved in the admission process for law schools around the country, has noted that recent incoming classes have been the most diverse in history. According to LSAC, 2021’s incoming class has a higher percentage of law students in nearly every minoritized demographic compared to every incoming class from previous years. For example, 57.4% of incoming students identify as women, over one-third identify as a person of color, and a “steady increase in the number of candidates who identify as nonbinary or decline to state their gender.”
The profession is diversifying, and the legal education recognizes that it needs to follow suit. Coupled with studies routinely showing that groups and organizations perform better when they adhere to diverse and inclusive principles, the profession has recently redoubled its efforts to progress accordingly. The American Bar Association has taken a firm stance on the issue, recognizing the continuously diversifying world and the need to rid the profession of discrimination. In 2019, ABA President Judy P. Martinez penned a letter discussing the ABA’s commitment to advancing the profession:
The country, and indeed the world, is watching and depending on American lawyers to stand up to bigotry, hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and inequality. . . . They have benefited from our efforts to tackle intractable social problems. . . . At the ABA, our focus is on four equally principled goals, one of which is to advance the rule of law. In speaking out to promote the rule of law, we also further our other goals: to serve our members, to eliminate bias and increase diversity, and to improve the profession.
President Martinez’s unambiguous statements spurred other commitments from the ABA as well as its members. Among other matters, the ABA now requires law schools to provide anti-bias, anti-racist, and culturally competent education to their students as a condition of accreditation and reaccreditation. Furthermore, nearly every law school around the country now has some set of diversity and inclusion policies. These policies help accomplish a variety of the ABA’s goals, including enabling students from a wide range of backgrounds to add their perspectives to their law schools and legal community. These policies include everything from diversifying student admissions, to diversifying guest speakers, to diversifying faculty.
The ABA’s goals, mandates, and accompanying policies to further diversity and inclusion require schools to take a hard look at their practices and evolve accordingly. The natural next step is to apply these values while implementing the things students engage with the most: the curriculum.
II. Non-Diverse Course Materials & Sense of Belonging.
“[I]njustice is telling [students] they are stars without acknowledging the night that surrounds them. Injustice is telling them education is the key while you continue to change the locks. Education is no equalizer: rather, it is the sleep that precedes the American dream, so wake up.”
While the law student population continues to diversify, the law school curriculum has failed to follow suit. Law schools around the country continue to implicitly silence the minoritized “other” student, juxtaposing their race, ethnicity, class, gender, and/or sexual orientation against the identities of the perceived “model” student, the white gentleman. But, as the ABA recognizes—and now mandates—law schools must provide all students with the tools necessary to succeed. Schools cannot achieve that goal when so many students feel that they do not belong in the legal profession.
For decades, studies have shown that “law schools are not yet even playing fields for all students” and demonstrate that minoritized students are experiencing law school differently from their “mainstream” classmates. Particularly, a 2020 study in The Journal of Legal Education determined that this “different” experience manifests in minoritized students lacking a sense of belonging in law school. The study revealed that “to improve legal education, belonging must enter the conversation, as it relate[s] to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.” Despite a demographic shift in law school enrollment, however, “the diversity in the profession remains stagnant,” contributing to minoritized students’ low sense of belonging compared with “mainstream” race-gender groups.
Furthermore, the study noted that a sense of belonging was so directly and significantly linked to a law student’s success that it could even be used to predict educational and professional outcomes. Using 2018 Law School Survey of Student Engagement data, the study highlighted that prior research found a lower sense of belonging predicted less educational satisfaction and lower grades. In turn, the sense of belonging impacted “students’ involvements in various performance-based academic, co-curricular, and summer opportunities, which in turn affect their subsequent employment and representation in various areas of legal practice.” Given that law school graduates hold some of the most powerful positions in society—such as in government, businesses, politics, and civil affairs—these findings demonstrate the impact a sense of belonging has on the diversity of the profession.
“Today, to effectively train all students—and to promote racial, economic, social, and cultural diversity in the legal profession—law schools must address the academic and related psychological needs of their students from underserved communities.” As scholars note, “law school administrations and their faculty must proactively support students so that the law school experience embraces and empowers them, not alienates and diminishes them.” Therefore, at every point in the student’s experience, they should be able to see their various demographics represented in the profession, including the curriculum they regularly engage with.
The law school curriculum, however, has yet to evolve appropriately. Currently, the curriculum primarily includes reading and discussing court opinions and secondary sources such as law journal articles. Structuring classes like this implicitly—maybe even explicitly—tells law students that the corresponding authors are the profession’s greatest minds, and students should seek to emulate these legal professionals. Because the vast majority of these materials are written by white, cisgender, straight, affluent men, this practice implies that the “best” attorneys are white, cisgender, straight, affluent men, and necessarily encourages students to practice like white, cisgender, straight, affluent men.
Take the instruction in lawyering skills courses. These courses provide a unique opportunity for students to learn “real world” legal skills in a simulated environment. They help students navigate an otherwise foreign terrain of “how to be an attorney” by teaching a wide range of skills that enable students to construct their professional identities. The courses are often taught with the assistance of supplemental books, such as Ross Guberman’s Point Made and Bryan Garner’s The Winning Brief—books professors put on a lawyering skills pedestal. These books are overwhelmingly written by white men and highlight excerpts mostly written by white men. For example, Guberman’s Point Made showcases what he describes as the “Top Advocates” throughout the book. Of these advocates, 75.86% are men and 87.93% are white. This not only indicates an overrepresentation of white men, but it also indicates that Guberman’s sources showcase even more men and white advocates than there currently are in the profession.
Furthermore, these books are not alone. A quick search on Amazon’s best seller list for other legal writing books populates similar results, providing a list of books overwhelmingly written by white men. A quick Google search finds the same. Furthermore, even though searches for legal writing textbooks populate texts overwhelmingly written by women, these same texts often do not receive the same recognition or appear in lists for so-called “Best Legal Writing Books,” nor do they sell comparable numbers of copies. Thus, while textbooks written by women are available, they are not seen as the “best” resources and are likely underutilized because they are not seen as the best. So while students are learning to construct their own professional identities, they are simultaneously learning that the “best of the best” are white men. Thus, students are effectively told to silence their own diverse perspectives and conform to the identity of a “normal” (white) attorney.
Students should not have to check their experiences and identities at the door, fearful they won’t be taken seriously. To be sure, authors such as Ross Guberman and Bryan Garner are excellent legal professionals, but they are not the only excellent professionals. As other scholars have noted, “Most law students are taught from an invisible and assumed perspective that is largely white, male, heterosexual, economically advantaged, and able-bodied.” The current status of law school curricula encourages minoritized students to bleach out who they are without allowing their voices to be heard by the community, thus failing to accomplish the ABA’s goals to “eliminate bias[,] increase diversity, and to improve the profession.”
III. Amplifying Diverse Voices
“But those days are done. I belong among the stars. And so do you. And so do they. Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness. For generations to come. So no, sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning.”
Our professional obligation to disrupt racist and other discriminatory practices necessitates that we amplify diverse voices in the law school curriculum. By doing so, the curriculum would be more representative, demonstrating stories of success from all demographics and would encourage all students from a variety of backgrounds that they too can succeed and contribute to the profession. This ideal has always been true, but it is especially imperative now given the demographic shift toward more diverse student bodies.
Amplifying voices by including sources from a diverse set of authors is not a novel concept. Other graduate programs have begun implementing more inclusive teaching practices, including seeking to expand “reading lists beyond white male authors, offering various ethnic and racial perspectives” in their respective courses. This resource expansion “ensur[es] PowerPoints and lecture examples offer a variety of human examples, and avoid[s] tokenizing particular individuals, students, or representations.”
Legal education can and must follow that lead. Indeed, lawyering skills courses provide a unique opportunity to accomplish the ABA’s goals and progress the profession forward. These classes are arguably the most developmental courses in a young attorney’s legal education as they are where students learn what the practice of law is like and begin developing their professional identity. If these courses evolve their teaching strategies to be more representative of the profession’s changing demographic, students will have a stronger sense of belonging, thereby bolstering the educational and professional outcomes of minoritized students.
The profession’s unfortunate past should not forestall progress. Yes, the legal profession’s past is marred by excluding many groups from the profession, which makes sources from white men more readily available compared to other demographics. But that is not a valid excuse—I have never met an attorney who uses a source simply out of convenience. At their core, lawyers are intentional, and that same level of intention is necessary when selecting classroom resources. It may take some effort and creativity, but law professors have an obligation to reconfigure their sources to keep up with the diversifying profession. This effort involves more than simply requiring a textbook written by a minoritized person; it involves consistently integrating diverse voices in the classroom, so an integral part of a student’s education is exposure to a variety of legal professionals that come from more than one demographic.
Further, failing to amplify diverse voices violates the ABA’s standards for law schools as well as professional conduct ideals. Anti-bias and anti-racist ideals are “essential to the profession’s responsibility to serve justice and must be a core aspect of legal professional identity.” Although the profession does not mandate any specific or particular approach to accomplish these ideals, “the unique responsibility of our profession to tend to the quality of justice demands a more conscientious approach to educating and supporting the development of law student professional identity.” Recent efforts to codify this anti-bias commitment into the Model Rules of Professional Conduct further indicate the need to amplify the voices that have been silenced for far too long.
Unfortunately, there are those who see these proposals as a threat to their academic autonomy. While the ABA’s resolution to mandate anti-bias, anti-racist, and culturally competent curriculum was a step in the right direction, some law faculty wrote letters opposing it. These letters argued that educating students on these topics threatened the faculty members’ academic autonomy and violated their freedom of speech. Some even argued these mandated requirements would amount to racism because implementing them would “attribute characteristics to individuals based on the color of their skin.” Notably, one of these letters—signed by ten Yale Law professors—called the new ABA standards “particularly disturbing.” Although this letter acknowledges that students have an obligation “to eliminate racism in the legal profession,” it also argues that these changes are too costly, and that the schools are already doing what they must to be “diverse.”
These critics, as one commentator put it, “represent much of what is wrong with our legal system.” They ignore the hard numbers that demonstrate inequity in law and “disingenuously conclude that there is no problem.” Yale, for example, ranks one-hundred eleventh in faculty diversity and thirty-eighth in student diversity. Accordingly, what is “particularly disturbing” is that these schools are, in fact, not diverse, but at least some of the individuals with the power to make necessary change believe that they are “diverse enough.”
IV. A How-to Guide for the Law School Professor
“[T]each in hopes of turning content, into rocket ships—Tribulations into telescopes. So a [student] can see their potential from right where they stand.”
For any new class—whether it be the beginning of a course or a guest lecture—teachers usually spend significant time preparing their teaching materials. This process should include time spent finding and incorporating diverse voices to amplify in the classroom. As those in the profession have recently argued, “the legal institution needs more than diversity training—it needs to study the statistics, own the mistakes that have been made, and commit to training a future of lawyers who won’t easily make the same mistakes.” As discussed above, legal education’s past of bleaching out diverse voices cannot continue if we are to reach the profession’s goals. Correspondingly, the following is meant to serve as a guide to assist lawyering skills professors to attain the ABA’s goals to improve the profession.
Create an inclusive environment. Regularly, scholars note that “[t]oo often teachers are unprepared to work with students who have backgrounds substantially different from their own.” To combat this and create a welcoming environment, “professors must first understand their students’ circumstances, and second, implement educational techniques to help all of their students thrive.”
The initial step of understanding can take many forms. It can start by taking the simple step of educating oneself and understanding the changing demographics at law schools and in the profession. The next steps in understanding can be more individualized. For example, Professor Ann Sinsheimer’s legal writing class begins with the students creating their own “culture boxes,” described as “a collection of objects the students feel define them or their social identities.” Professor Sinsheimer uses these culture boxes to help the student, their classmates, and even the instructor understand how each person’s life story brought them to where they are today. Commentators praise this approach as it enables “the professor [to] connect with the students . . . [and] can help students adapt to their new profession.”
Through understanding their students, professors can then “tailor the teaching environment to be accessible” to all students. Studies show that “teachers who use a psychological lens to analyze students’ strategies, motivation, and attitudes gain deeper understanding about students’ behavior in the classroom which, in turn, allows them to design better instruction that can make learning more meaningful for [students].” Admittedly, not all students will be forthcoming about all their personal identities and the full extent of their respective stories, but by creating a safe space where the student feels they belong and that their professor cares about who they are as a person, the professor can improve both educational and, by extension, professional outcomes.
Develop your course to be diverse. Lawyering skills courses often use hypotheticals to guide their classes along, but these problems should not—and likely cannot—be devoid of various social identities. In fact, many have written about how creating “problems that force students to grapple with issues that confront the intersection of diversity and the law” can have a positive impact on the students’ education. At some institutions, for example, the legal writing programs use their curriculum to explore how areas of the legal profession favor some demographics but disenfranchise others. By carefully selecting the issues for these assignments, the relevant case law involved “opens the door to discussion and analysis of [aspects including] race, age, and disability discrimination.”
Some educators have taken this a step forward and also explore topics that have the potential of affecting the profession as a whole, even if they are not necessarily relevant to the class’s hypothetical. For example, Professor Jennifer Cupar’s lawyering skills course includes group projects that discuss societal issues surrounding the class’s semester-long hypothetical. Each group presents a particular topic to the rest of the class, while Professor Cupar serves as a moderator for discussion. For instance, during a semester when students worked on a suit where a plaintiff brought claims of unlawful arrest and excessive force by a school resource officer, groups discussed topics including the school-to-prison pipeline, reforming qualified immunity, and the current debate over school resource officers. Although these projects did not necessarily apply to the causes of action in the course’s semester-long problem, they still allowed students to grapple with the intersection of diversity and the law, and students acted as the instructor for the day and were able to recognize that they could positively contribute to their environment.
Approaches can also be subtler. Studies show that “[s]tudents better grasp concepts when they can connect with what they are studying . . . [and] [w]hen the classroom integrates a student’s community and culture, it becomes a place more likely to hold engaged, active, and involved learners.” For example, characters in the problems—not just the alleged victims—can be diverse. Educators have commented that diverse characters can also be introduced subtly, such as by choosing names from well-known TV shows with a diverse cast.
Additionally, instructors can further integrate these values through diversifying classroom samples. Similar to other graduate programs that have expanded reading lists beyond white male authors, lawyering skills professors can ensure that their examples offer a diverse group of practitioners and judges. In this way, instructors can better prepare their students, offering various lawyering perspectives and styles to their students while they develop their own professional identities.
Albeit there is no one way to diversify classroom instruction, a concerted effort to do so is crucial. In fact, as studies show that “students from different backgrounds may learn in different ways,” including multiple avenues to diversify the course’s instruction can help all students appreciate they belong in the profession.
Diversify guest speakers.  “One of the most important aspects of the class is when the students get to hear from other lawyers.” Some professors use these opportunities to “discuss their experiences and how to navigate the legal field.” This tool can help students from minoritized backgrounds visibly see their demographics succeeding in the profession and gain advice on how to traverse the foreign terrain of the legal profession.
The diversity of this group is imperative. As one commentator put it, if your speakers are “a bunch of white males . . . with Harvard degrees who all have the same socio-economic status, the same privileges, the same experiences, then you’ve flunked basic diversity.” “People have different experiences, and those experiences bring about different knowledge bases.” Furthermore, scholarly literature on this topic regularly supports the need to diversify wholistically and reach multiple demographics; it is necessary that guest speakers should follow suit.
Include an intentional and equitable writing class. As my legal writing professor would say, “Precise is nice; specific is terrific.” A class explicitly dedicated to intentional and equitable writing guides students to be precise and specific in how they characterize various social identities in their writing. Teaching students to be intentional when writing trains them to reflect on how a term is perceived by the reader versus what they are trying to say. Discussing equitable language ensures students are “accurate, specific, and objective” in their writing. So-called “colorblind” practices reinforce existing inequities, including in writing. Equity-centered teaching, however, proactively reframes and recenters the experiences, expertise, and voices of the people often excluded in supposedly neutral writing. For example, “diverse” can describe a population of the student body, but it is not an accurate way to describe an individual. Similarly, “race” is an imprecise way to describe skin tone and can reinforce stereotypes. Classes that wrestle with these topics are important to the instruction of lawyering skills because they reframe deficient, outdated thinking. For example, the term “minoritized” accurately acknowledges the intentional marginalization of certain demographics, whereas “minority” normalizes harmful social constructs that treat particular demographics as lesser.
The importance of these classes is not hypothetical. They teach students about the power words hold and make them grapple with how to describe people in their classroom problems. With this knowledge, students will be more equipped to foster equity when they go out into the profession. In recent years, we have witnessed the legal profession’s regular vernacular evolving, including examples such as:
Illegal alien → Undocumented immigrant
Affirmative action → Race-sensitive admissions policies
Handicapped → Person with a disability
Vocabulary can change with time, and even the most “neutral” vocabulary that refers to various social identities should be investigated and re-examined from time to time.
Studies show that these classes can further instill a sense of belonging in students from various backgrounds. These studies demonstrate that professors can build their students’ self-esteem by incorporating and embracing the varied cultures of the class with culturally relevant and sensitive pedagogy. A learning environment that embraces multiculturalism builds student self-esteem by helping students feel less like foreigners and more like citizens. By using these methods, professors discreetly show students the positive effect they can have on their personal worlds, the world at large, and the legal profession.
Provide avenues to lift voices. Professors can further amplify the voices of all students by creating situations that increase students’ self-esteem. Scholars note that “any serious attempt to build self-worth must challenge not only the devaluation of that student’s identity that the student may have historically experienced, but it must also confront implicit biases that undermine people from historically underserved communities.” Encouraging students to be part of the law school community can result in a strong “correlation between campus involvement and positive educational outcomes, including achieving learning objectives such as critical thinking, cognitive development, and retention.” Concretely, instructors can help encourage involvement in law school clubs and organizations, bar association committees, and Inns of Court programming. In this way, students will feel more connected to their classmates, their environment, and the profession, and they are more likely to succeed due to these connections.
Furthermore, instructors can seek to diversify their pool for teaching assistants (“TA”), rather than simply selecting the top student(s) from the prior term. As noted throughout this article, minoritized students experience law school and the legal profession much differently than their white, cisgender, straight, affluent, male counterparts. TAs are uniquely situated as they act as a buffer between the students and the instructor, simultaneously assisting the professor in creating course materials while also mentoring students throughout the course’s term. Often, TAs are the first point of contact for students who have questions and are invaluable to the course’s instruction. Accordingly, by selecting teaching assistants more wholistically (i.e., interests in teaching, prior mentorship experience, etc.), professors will be able to lift voices from diverse backgrounds.
Amplifying voices may also come in the form of teaching students to understand that they don’t need “to stand apart from their history, identity, and immediate circumstances” and become robotic, “colorless legal analysts.” Indeed, lawyering skills like legal writing should be performed at a professional level, but there is no one way to write like a lawyer. For decades, students tried to “incorporate their minoritized identities and experiences into their class contributions, [but] their comments [were] disregarded as just subjective opinions. As a result, many minoritized law students tend to feel inferior, which silences their voices in the classroom.” Therefore, it is beneficial to explicitly tell students that the writing they have often come across usually comes from one demographic, but that should not indicate that they need to replicate that voice—their own unique voice is valid and should be heard. Specifically, law school professors can recommend that students submit their writing to be heard by others, such as by encouraging and supporting students to submit their papers to writing competitions.
Although this is only a sample and not a full-encompassing list of ways to amplify diverse voices in lawyering skills courses, this guide should help professors get the process of amplifying started. Faculty, staff, attorneys, and even teaching assistants can help further develop courses that demonstrate the power of all voices from various demographics.
Our professional obligations as lawyers demand that we disrupt and end racism and racist practices. This antiracist obligation necessitates a commitment to amplifying the voices that have been silenced for far too long.
The profession has long struggled with representation, and the profession’s lack of diversity causes alarm. In recent years, however, law student bodies have become increasingly diverse, becoming more representative of the general community. Accordingly, the ABA has mandated that American law schools instill values of diversity, inclusion, and anti-bias in training students. With these new mandates, the next logical step is to reevaluate the law school curriculum, which largely amplifies the work of white men and bleaches out other voices.
Lawyering skills courses can make a change in the right direction. Because these courses are instrumental in creating a young attorney’s professional identity, including diverse voices in classroom instruction can ensure that all students see their respective demographics represented in the profession. Students will be better equipped to create a professional identity that is their own and not one of a white, cisgender, straight, affluent man. Although there is no single way to amplify diverse voices, a deliberate and purposeful inclusion of various groups can ensure that students feel that they belong and can achieve in the profession.
You are powerful and your voice matters. You’re going to walk into many rooms in your life and career where you may be the only one who looks like you or who has the experiences you’ve had. But you remember that when you are in those rooms, you are not alone. We are all in that room with you applauding you on. Cheering your voice. And just so proud of you. So you use that voice and be strong.
—Vice President Kamala Harris
Donovan Livingston, Lift Off, Address at the Harvard Graduate School of Education 2016 Convocation (May 25, 2016) (transcript available at https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/16/05/lift) [https://perma.cc/L868-3SPQ].
Unfortunately, because law schools often define Middle Eastern students as “Caucasian/White” or “Other,” there is no clear estimate regarding how many Middle Eastern law students there are around the country. Many schools, however, have affinity student groups for students of Middle Eastern/Northern African descent, implying an understood minoritized status.
Although my law school, Case Western Reserve, is considerably “less white” compared to other law schools around the county, it still does not have official statistics for Middle Eastern students, factoring them under “White.” See Vernellia Randall, 2021 The Whitest Law School Rankings, Race, Racism & the Law (March 8, 2021) https://racism.org/2021-law-school-rankings?start=4 [https://perma.cc/9KA5-XCXL] (last visited Nov. 9, 2022); Case Western Reserve University – 2021 Standard 509 Information Report (2021), https://case.edu/law/sites/case.edu.law/files/2021-12/509 Report 2021 (1).pdf. Similar to other schools, there are also affinity groups like the Middle Eastern Law Students Association that implies an understood minoritized status. See Middle Eastern Law Students Association, Case W. Reserve Univ. Sch. of Law, https://case.edu/law/campus-life/student-organizations/middle-eastern-law-students-association (last visited Nov. 17, 2022).
During a networking event, an attorney learned I could speak Farsi and said I should consider working for the FBI because they would love to have me “spy on the homeland.” I thought this was just a one-time microaggression, but when I later interviewed for an internship at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, one of my interviewers told me I should consider working for the FBI because a knowledge of Farsi would be a valuable asset.
E.g., 104 In Brief: The Magazine of Case Western Reserve University School of Law 44 (Fall 2021), https://case.edu/law/sites/case.edu.law/files/2021-10/in-brief-fall-2021 (1).pdf [https://perma.cc/67WS-DJM6]; Student Experiences, Case W. Reserve Univ. Sch. of Law, https://case.edu/law/practical-training/student-experiences [https://perma.cc/EZ2L-53UG] (last visited Nov. 9, 2022).
See In Brief, supra n. 6. If memory serves, that picture was taken during my first year of law school around the time I was drafting the email to withdraw from law school.
Elizabeth Bodamer, Do I Belong Here? Examining Perceived Experiences of Bias, Stereotype Concerns, and Sense of Belonging in U.S. Law Schools, 69 J. of Legal Educ. 455 (2020).
Id. at 467.
Livingston, supra note 2.
Benjamin Slyngstad (@slyngstad_cartoons), Cartoon, Supreme Court Justices Over Time, Instagram (April 7, 2022), https://www.instagram.com/slyngstad_cartoons/?hl=en [https://perma.cc/ZNJ7-JMTL].
QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/LFE046219 [https://perma.cc/XS2R-MMUA] (last visited Nov. 9, 2022) [hereinafter 2020 U.S. Census].
American Bar Association, Women in the Legal Profession, Profile of the Legal Prof. 2021, at 81, https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/news/2021/0721/polp.pdf [https://perma.cc/MC6Z-62NX] [hereinafter ABA Profile].
2020 U.S. Census, supra note 12.
ABA Profile, supra note 13, at 13.
Disability Impacts ALL of US, Ctr. for Disease Control, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/documents/disabilities_impacts_all_of_us.pdf [https://perma.cc/2NSF-HLDH] (last visited Nov. 9, 2022).
ABA Profile, supra note 13, at 16.
Jeffrey M. Jones, LGBT Identification Rises to 5.6% in Latest U.S. Estimate, Gallup (Feb. 24, 2021), https://news.gallup.com/poll/329708/lgbt-identification-rises-latest-estimate.aspx [https://perma.cc/RTL2-JM6E].
ABA Profile, supra note 13, at 15.
See, e.g., Janna Adelstein & Alicia Bannon, State Courts’ Stark Lack of Diversity Demands Action, Brennan Ctr. for Just. (July 6, 2021), https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/state-courts-stark-lack-diversity-demands-action [https://perma.cc/D7JA-2B66].
See, e.g., Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms, Nat’l Ass’n for L. Placement (2021), https://www.nalp.org/uploads/2021NALPReportonDiversity.pdf [https://perma.cc/PH7H-FRXD].
See, e.g., How Diverse Are the Law School Faculty in the United States, 2Civility (Aug. 29, 2016), https://www.2civility.org/diverse-law-school-faculty-united-states/ [https://perma.cc/K28W-M2E3]; Robert R. Kuehn, Shifting Law School Faculty Demographics, 30 Clinical L. Educ. Ass’n Newsl. (Jan. 12, 2022), https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4001710 [https://perma.cc/8CHW-SX4U].
ABA Profile, supra note 13, at 55–56.
Susan L. Krinsky, The Incoming Class of 2021—The Most Diverse Law School Class in History, L. Sch. Admission Council (Dec. 15, 2021), https://www.lsac.org/blog/incoming-class-2021-most-diverse-law-school-class-history [https://perma.cc/LNT8-83KH].
E.g., David Rock & Heidi Grant, Why Diverse Teams are Smarter, Harvard Bus. Rev. (Nov. 04, 2016), https://hbr.org/2016/11/why-diverse-teams-are-smarter [https://perma.cc/FZ7V-ZULU]; Sundiatu Dixon-Fyle, Kevin Dolan, Vivian Hunt & Sara Prince, Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters, McKinsey & Co. (May 19, 2020), https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters [https://perma.cc/53DG-FGHG].
Judy Perry Martinez, ABA Advances the Rule of Law to Assure Fairness, Justice, and Ultimately, Our Democracy, ABA Journal (Sept. 1, 2019, 3:10 AM CDT), https://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/aba-advances-the-rule-of-law-to-assure-fairness-justice-and-ultimately-our-democracy [https://perma.cc/Q3P9-TFYQ].
American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Revised Standards for Approval of Law Schools, Am. Bar Ass’n 3-4, (Feb. 2022), https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/directories/policy/midyear-2022/300-midyear-2022.pdf [https://perma.cc/N9JF-GK96].
See, e.g., Diversity & Inclusion, Case W. Reserve Univ. Sch. of Law, https://case.edu/law/our-school/diversity-inclusion [https://perma.cc/W3U6-M88X] (last visited 2022).
Livingston, supra note 2.
Kali Nicole Murray, Breaking through Silence: The Necessary Space of the Doctrinal Classroom, in Integrating Doctrine and Diversity 43–44 (Nicole P. Dyszlewski, Raquel J. Gabriel, Suzanne Harrington-Steppen, Anna Russell & Genevieve B. Tung, eds., 2021) [hereinafter Integrating].
Bodamer, supra note 8, at 463; Elizabeth Mertz, Inside the Law School Classroom: Toward a New Legal Realist Pedagogy, 60 Vand. L. Rev. 483, 511 (2007); see also Carrie Yang Costello, Professional Identity Crisis: Race, Class, Gender, and Success at Professional Schools (2005); Power, Legal Education, and Law School Cultures (Meera Deo, Mindie Lazarus-Black & Elizabeth Mertz, eds. 2020); Robert Granfield, Making Elite Lawyers: Visions of Law at Harvard And Beyond (1992); Lani Guinier, Michelle Fine & Jane Balin, Becoming Gentlemen: Women, Law School, and Institutional Change (1997); Elizabeth Mertz, The Language of Law School: Learning to “Think Like A Lawyer” (2007); Wendy Leo Moore, Reproducing Racism: White Space, Elite Law Schools, and Racial Inequality (2008); Wendy Leo Moore & Joyce M. Bell, The Right to Be Racist in College: Racist Speech, White Institutional Space, and the First Amendment, 39 Law & Pol’y 99, 99–120 (2017); Yung-Yi Diana Pan, Incidental Racialization: Performative Assimilation in Law School (2017); Robert B. Stevens, Law School: Legal Education in America from the 1850s to the 1980s (1983); William M. Sullivan, Lloyd Bond, Judith Welch Wegner, Anne Colby & Lee Shulman, Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law (2007).
Bodamer, supra note 8, at 473–77.
Id. at 456.
Id. at 466–67.
Id note 8, at 467.
Id.; see also Gerald F. Hess, Heads and Hearts: The Teaching and Learning Environment in Law School, 52 J. Legal Educ. 75 (2002); Kennon M. Sheldon & Lawrence S. Krieger, Does Legal Education have Undermining Effects on Law Students? Evaluating Changes in Motivation, Values, and Well-Being?, 22 Behavioral Sciences & the Law 261 (2004); Paul T. Wangerin, Calculating Rank-In-Class Numbers: The Impact of Grading Differences Among Law School Teachers, 51 J. Legal Educ. 98 (2001).
Bodamer, supra note 8, at 467.
Amy H. Soled & Barbara Hoffman, Building Bridges: How Law Schools Can Better Prepare Students from Historically Underserved Communities to Excel in Law School, 69 J. Legal Educ. 289, 296 (2020).
At some schools, they teach the courses through working on pro bono clinic cases. See id. at 289.
These skills include, but are not limited to, legal research, legal writing, oral advocacy, managing a practice, addressing difficult ethical and professional problems, and balancing their professional and personal lives.
Compare Ross Guberman, Point Made (2011) with ABA Profile, supra note 13.
See Best Sellers in Legal Education, Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Books-Legal-Education-Writing/zgbs/books/10929 [https://perma.cc/TCM4-CFY5] (last visited 2022).
E.g., Christine Coughlin, Joan M. Rocklin & Sandy Patrick, A Lawyer Writes (Carolina Academic Press, 3d ed. 2018); Joan M. Rocklin, Robert B. Rocklin, Christine Coughlin & Sandy Patrick, An Advocate Persuades (Carolina Academic Press 2016); Laurel Currie Oates, Anne Enquist & Jeremy Francis, The Legal Writing Handbook (Wolters Kluwer, 7th ed 2018); Terrill Pollman & Judith M. Stinson, Legal Writing (Examples & Explanations) (Aspen Publishing, 3d ed. 2019): Linda H. Edwards, Legal Writing & Analysis (Wolters Kluwer 5th ed. 2019).
See, e.g., Best Legal Writing Books, Online Master of L. Stud., https://onlinemasteroflegalstudies.com/resources/best-legal-writing-books/ [https://perma.cc/5N5V-KBK4] (last visited Nov. 9, 2022); Best Sellers in Legal Education Writing, Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Legal-Education-Writing/zgbs/books/10929 [https://perma.cc/U2QC-7URF] (last visited Nov. 9, 2022); JD, 7 Best Legal Writing Books of All Time, Spartan Esquire (Sept. 16, 2019), https://spartanesquire.com/7-best-legal-writing-books-of-all-time/ [https://perma.cc/6DN6-8HMC].
Cf, Bryan A. Garner, Legal Writing in Plain English (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2d Ed. 2013) with Christine Coughlin, Joan Rocklin & Sandy Patrick, A Lawyer Writes: A Practical Guide to Legal Analysis (Carolina Academic Press, 3d ed. 2018) (listing Garner’s text as #18,136 and Coughlin’s text as #73,360 in Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank, which ranks books based on number of copies sold. They are also listed as #3 and #9 respectively for Legal Education Writing.). This is important because this demonstrates an implicit bias against texts written by women, treating texts written by men as more respectable and necessary to emulate.
Anastasia M. Boles, Seeking Inclusion from the Inside Out: Towards A Paradigm of Culturally Proficient Legal Education, 11 Charleston L. Rev. 209, 221 (2017). It should also be noted that this fact also creates an interesting dichotomy, considering legal writing faculty are female by a significantly large margin. See Ass’n of Legal Writing Dirs. & Legal Writing Inst., Report of the Annual Legal Writing Survey 123 (2021) (indicating 76.6% of legal-writing faculty identified as female).
See Martinez, supra note 28.
Livingston, supra note 2.
Inclusive Teaching Strategies, Yale Poorvu Ctr. for Teaching and Learning, https://poorvucenter.yale.edu/InclusiveTeachingStrategies [https://perma.cc/M8Q7-F9VG] (last visited 2022) [hereinafter Inclusive Learning Strategies].
Although this article focuses on lawyering skills courses, doctrinal courses can also follow these ideals.
As mentioned previously, many—if not most—legal-writing textbooks are written by women.
See supra notes 13 & 45 (depicting the overrepresentation of white men as examples of great legal professionals).
Eduardo R.C. Capulong, Andrew King-Ries & Monte Mills, Starting at the Start: Integrating Race and Reflection for an Antiracist Approach to Professional Identity Development in the First Year Curriculum, in Integrating, supra note 32, at 23–30.
Eduardo R.C. Capulong, Andrew King-Ries & Monte Mills, Antiracism, Reflection, and Professional Identity, 18 Hastings Race & Poverty L. J 3, 7 n. 18 (2021).
Nellie Q. Barnard & Christopher Heredia, Efforts Toward Improved Diversity and Inclusion Through Anti-Bias Rule, Fed. Bar Ass’n (Dec. 15, 2021), https://www.fedbar.org/blog/efforts-toward-improved-diversity-and-inclusion-through-the-anti-bias-rule/ [https://perma.cc/T6UN-V6XS].
See Donna Mulvihill Fehrmann, ABA’s New Anti-Bias Curriculum Rule is Insufficient, Law360 (March 11, 2022), https://www.law360.com/articles/1471033/aba-s-new-anti-bias-curriculum-rule-is-insufficient [https://perma.cc/WW4E-RYWJ].
Id. These professors claimed “there already exists in American law schools, and certainly at Yale, a sincere and profound consensus about the desirability of promoting diversity both in the legal profession and, within the Law School, among our students, instructors, administrators, and staff . . . Our law schools are in a word ‘diverse.’”
Livingston, supra note 2.
Fehrmann, supra note 62.
See Martinez, supra note 28.
Soled & Hoffman, supra note 41, at 283.
See supra notes 11–26.
Soled & Hoffman, supra note 41, at 284.
Id. at 285.
See, e.g., Scott G. Paris & Peter Winograd, The Role of Self-Regulated Learning in Contextual Teaching: Principles and Practices for Teacher Preparation, Off. of Educ. Rsch. & Improvement 6, https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED479905.pdf [https://perma.cc/J6EF-PBDK].
See generally Integrating, supra note 32.
For example, the University of Illinois Chicago Law School has the “1L Antiracist Curriculum Project” that involves equipping law teachers and law students with the information and analytic tools necessary to unveil the systems of oppression entrenched in the legal system.
Integrating, supra note 32, at 226.
Id. at 229.
Kassem L. Lucas, Teaching Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging in Law School, Troutman Pepper (Oct. 15, 2019), https://www.troutman.com/insights/teaching-diversity-inclusion-and-belonging-in-law-school.html [https://perma.cc/7R2Q-MVWQ].
Integrating, supra note 32, at 227.
See Inclusive Learning Strategies, supra note 54.
Soled & Hoffman, supra note 41, at 283.
LawProfBlawg, Diversity and Academic Conference Speakers: A Misunderstood Relation, Above the L. (Jan. 23, 2018), https://abovethelaw.com/2018/01/diversity-and-academic-conference-speakers-a-misunderstood-relation/ [https://perma.cc/7FFK-3BLB].
Lucas, supra note 83.
LawProfBlawg, supra note 88.
See, e.g., Katherine W. Phillips, How Diversity Makes Us Smarter, Sci. Am. (Oct. 2014), https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/ [https://perma.cc/G5KQ-MXQV].
Robert McGuire, Equitable Language and Reframing: How we Think About Writing and Editing to Support Equity, Every Learner Everywhere (Nov. 2021), https://www.everylearnereverywhere.org/blog/equitable-language-and-reframing-how-we-think-about-writing-and-editing-to-support-equity/ [https://perma.cc/8BES-M3B8].
Octavio Pimentel, Charise Pimentel & John Dean, The Myth of the Colorblind Writing Classroom: White Instructors Confront White Privilege in Their Classrooms, in Performing Antiracist Pedagogy in Rhetoric Writing, and Communication, 109–22 (eds. Frankie Condon and Vershawn Ashanti Young, 2016).
See McGuire, supra note 94.
Integrating, supra note 32, at 239.
Soled & Hoffman, supra note 41, at 288.
Id. at 289.
Id. at 290.
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Toward A Race-Conscious Pedagogy in Legal Education, 11 Nat’l Black L.J. 1, 3 (1988).
Bodamer, supra note 8, at 465; see also Crenshaw, supra, note 103, at 10–12.
Capulong, Andrew King-Ries & Monte Mills, supra note 59.
Marie Claire, One of These Women Could Be Our Next President, Marie Claire (Feb. 21, 2019), https://www.marieclaire.com/politics/a26412575/women-running-for-president-2020/ [https://perma.cc/GFS9-RBR9].