Law School Debt Limits Diversity in the Legal Profession

Nicole Britton-Snyder, Diversity Pipeline Programs Manager

from SF Attorney magazine, Spring 2014, The State of Law Schools

from SF Attorney magazine, Spring 2014, The State of Law Schools

$119,000, $141,000, $144,000, $147,000. What do these numbers represent? According to U.S. News & World Report, this is the average debt of 2013 graduates from four different Bay Area law schools.

In California, more than half of the state’s population is ethnically and racially diverse. However, according to the 2010 U.S. census, only 12% of attorneys nationwide are ethnically and racially diverse. This is troubling because our profession is not representative of the population and communities who utilize our services.

The truth is that law school tuition continues to increase at a ferocious rate. Consider these current tuitions: UC Berkeley $48,000, University of San Francisco $45,000, UC Hastings $43,000.

And these expenses don’t include other costs such as books, rent, food and transportation. The inability to finance a legal education has a lasting impact on the lack of diversity in our profession.

So for the past 16 years, the Justice & Diversity Center has supported diverse law students in financing their legal education through our Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarship, with more than 85 scholarships being awarded to date. The three-year, $30,000 scholarship helps to alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with law school.

Our recipients excel academically, thrive professionally and contribute to the ultimate goal of increasing diversity within the legal practice. These attorneys now work for law firms, nonprofits and government organizations including the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, Hanson Bridgett, the Department of Labor, Keker & Van Nest, the Social Security Administration and Worksafe Inc., just to name a few.

With our 2014-2015 scholarship cycle approaching, we need your support now more than ever. Last year we were able to award scholarships to five extraordinary students. We ask that you, your law firm, or organization sponsor a 2014-2015 scholarship. Our scholarship program would not be possible without the financial support of individual donors, law firms, and organizations.

Your contribution can have a lasting impact for the next generation of diverse attorneys.

If you are interested in sponsoring a 2014 Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarship, contact Nicole Britton-Snyder, diversity pipeline programs manager at nbrittonsnyder@sfbar.org.