While the Keystone XL oil pipeline may be a controversial oil transportation project periodically in the headlines, a completely different pipeline has an immense impact on the racial and ethnic demographics in the Twin Cities legal industry.
According to 2012 data from the National Association of Legal Professionals (NALP), approximately 6.49% of attorneys in the Twin Cities metropolitan area are people of color*. The statistics become even more alarming when you break this number down further to see how many Partners of color are in our community, particularly women of color. In comparison, the Twin Cities metro, overall, has a population of 23.59% people of color^. Not only does this tell us that racial and ethnic minorities are vastly under-represented in the legal community, it shows us that there is a lot of work left to do.
One way to achieve greater, more representative numbers, is to hire our way to a representative sector. Essentially, we can try enticing attorneys and law students of color from outside of the Twin Cities to move here. While this may work in the short term, not only will it be harder for attorneys with no connections in the community to build a client base, it will also be harder to get them to stay. As such, a more sustainable method to increase representation is to address root causes of the problem, like the vast achievement gap in the Twin Cities, and working with youth to realize that a career in law is a viable and appealing option.
Realistically, building a pool of our own talent will also be difficult. The Twin Cities’ achievement gap in education is startlingly high. When looking at 2011 high school graduation rates in the Twin Cities, 82.5% of White (non-Hispanic) students graduated from high school, compared to 72.8% of Asian students, 48.0% of Black students, 47.7% of Hispanic students, and 35.9% of American Indian students**. Building a pipeline, or a path, for young people of color to become members of the legal community is key, and it starts at the earliest stages of their lives, to provide them with the environment and support to learn, graduate from high school, attend a reputable undergraduate institution, and find the right law school. The construction of this pipeline is vital in order to make the Twin Cities legal community more representative of the population, in a sustainable manner, with the worst case scenario of building a strong pipeline, being a more equitable education system.
Do you have questions about the idea of legal pipeline, or do you want to know more? Visit the resources below or leave your questions and comments on this post!
2. Example National Program: Legal Outreach
Any other great pipeline organizations that you know of and would recommend? Leave them in the comments below!