Why Black Lawyers Matter


The Black Lawyers Matter Conference opened with a discussion of the need for more diverse attorneys in the legal profession. The article also explored racial biases in the legal profession, and the effect racial disparities have on criminal justice. In the following paragraphs, we will look at some of the key issues that black lawyers must address. This is a complex issue, but one that requires serious discussion and consideration. To do that, we will need to look at some key data.

Why more black attorneys are needed in St. Louis

A growing number of studies show that African Americans often experience disproportionately poor outcomes when it comes to court cases. One out of every 15 black men is incarcerated in the United States, compared to one out of every 106 white men. These statistics highlight the critical need for more black attorneys to serve the community. This is not only true in criminal cases, but in many civil cases, as well.

In Ferguson, Missouri, for example, where the police killed Michael Brown, there were zero black attorneys. While there are nearly 14,000 residents, only 6% of the municipal court’s personnel were black. Last year, it was estimated that the city issued and received ninety-five percent of cases and warrants, respectively. The numbers are staggering. As a result, St. Louis is in desperate need of more black attorneys. But how do we find more of these attorneys? Here are some reasons.

AJD data on black lawyers

AJD data on black lawyers reveals two important findings that show how racial differences in employment affect black and white attorneys. First, the AJD data shows that black attorneys are less likely to become equity partners and more likely to be fired from their law firms than white lawyers. Second, they are less likely to earn top salaries than white lawyers. But there is still hope. The AJD study will be used to measure the professional success of black lawyers nationwide.

According to the American Bar Association’s Profile of the Legal Profession, black attorneys represent just five percent of attorneys. However, African-Americans make up about thirteen percent of the population. This percentage hasn’t changed in a decade. In North Carolina, for example, nine percent of black attorneys are black, and eighty-six percent identify as Caucasian/White. If you’re looking for a lawyer, you can’t go wrong by identifying yourself with one of these two statistics.

Racial biases in the legal profession

While the legal profession has long promoted diversity, it has not done much to ensure that its ranks are representative of society. In the last decade, the percentage of black attorneys has remained unchanged at just 0.4%. Further, black law students are saddled with higher student loan debt than their white counterparts, which hinders their bar passage rates and career options. As a result, many of them cannot afford to pursue career opportunities in social justice.

Despite efforts to combat these issues, discrimination in the legal field is still widespread. For example, a study conducted in 2005 found that almost half of black and minority attorneys left their firms within 28 months, while seventy percent of white attorneys quit within five years. Moreover, minority women attorneys have the highest attrition rates, with only a third remaining at one law firm. In addition, Asian-American women reported that they were often designated as note-takers during meetings. And, as a result, women are pressured to balance warmth with assertiveness.

The impact of racial disparities on criminal justice

While disparities in health and education are significant, they do not compare in terms of the level of incarceration and police stops. African Americans, in particular, are five times more likely to be incarcerated than Whites. These disparities are particularly striking when compared to the racial and economic profile of African Americans, who are often the poorest in the nation. A recent study by the Pew Research Center suggests that these disparities in incarceration are caused by structural bias.

In prison, black and Latino males are significantly more likely to be incarcerated, despite being equivalent in income and employment. According to the National Prison Research Institute, racial disparities in incarceration are so pronounced that nearly 40% of the nation’s male population is African American. Additionally, unemployed black males are more likely to receive a more serious sentence than similarly-positioned white males.

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