Monthly Archives: April 2012

Current Employment Debate Damages Diversity Efforts


Damaging Our Diversity Efforts: One of the Unintended Consequences of the Current Employment Debate

By John Nussbaumer
Associate Dean, Auburn Hills Campus
John Nussbaumer has worked to help diversify the profession since 2005, when then National Bar Association President Reginald M. Turner recruited him to join the NBA Law Professors Division. Since then, he has spoken frequently on this topic, including presentations at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 2007 Annual Legislative Conference, the American Association of Law Schools 2009 Annual Meeting, and the American Bar Association’s 2010 Annual Meeting.  He has also written extensively on diversity issues, most recently a 2011 article co-authored with Professor E. Christopher Johnson titled The Door to Law School, published in the University of Massachusetts Roundtable Law Journal.  He is the recipient of the National Bar Association’s 2007 Presidential Award and the ABA Council of Legal Education Opportunity’s 2008 Legacy Justice Academic Achievement Award, and he just finished a three-year term on the ABA Council on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline.
The current, mostly one-sided debate about law school graduate employment prospects poses one of the greatest threats in recent memory to our efforts to diversify the profession, particularly at a time when our increasingly diverse society needs more, not fewer, lawyers of color.
We already face serious challenges in this area, with nearly two-thirds of all African-American applicants and nearly one-half of all Hispanic applicants to ABA-approved schools having been totally shut out from every school they applied to during the first decade of this century.  If the best and the brightest of the future potential applicants of color who would be admitted now forgo applying to law school altogether because they perceive that law is not a promising career, the combination of these two factors will stop our diversity efforts in their tracks and reverse the direction of the profession.
The reason why this is so important is that by 2042 or sooner, demographers predict that a majority of America’s citizens will be citizens of color.  If the legal profession remains almost 90% Caucasian, as it is today, we face the very real prospect of a crisis of confidence in the fairness of our justice system and our democracy, an inability to effectively compete in a global business environment that is also becoming increasingly diverse, and the risk that we will become the “apartheid” profession.
Responsible legal educators must, of course, also consider whether there will be employment opportunities for law school graduates of color in the coming years. For reasons explained elsewhere (see for example Cooley President Don LeDuc’s recent posting called The Graying of Michigan’s Lawyers and Cooley Law School’s national employment data compilation), the general employment prospects for all graduates are not as bleak as portrayed by those who have dominated the current debate.  And there are several reasons why employment prospects for graduates of color may be better than the general pool of graduates.
One is that as corporations and other businesses continue to become more global enterprises, they will demand that the lawyers who work for them and the law firms that service them look more like the increasingly diverse consumers who purchase their products. This provides reason to believe that top graduates of color will find that they are increasingly in demand.
Another reason is that as our population becomes increasingly diverse, and the political power of our citizens of color grows, they will elect more and more judges who reflect the diversity of our society, and they will increasingly make up a larger proportion of the juries that decide who wins and who loses legal cases.  Law firms and government agencies that depend on these judges and juries will increasingly realize that it is in their interest and the interest of their clients to have lawyers of color working on these cases.
A third reason is that good lawyers of color will find increasing populations of clients who need basic legal services and who would prefer to be represented by someone from their own community.  And this is true whether that community is African American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Asian, etc.  This provides reason to believe that even average graduates of color will be able to find work to support themselves and pay off their student loan obligations.
All of this is why it is so important to bring some balance to the current debate over law school graduate employment prospects, so that we do not unintentionally damage our efforts to diversify the profession. There are too few, not too many, lawyers of color, and we need to recognize that point.

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Needed: Lawyers Who Are Economic Drivers


By Nelson P. Miller
Associate Dean, Grand Rapids Campus
Nelson P. Miller, along with co-editors James D. Robb and John D. Crane, has just published a book called Lawyers as Economic Drivers: The Business Case for Legal Services (Vandeplas Publishing, 2012).  The book presents essays by practitioners from across the nation containing insightful descriptions of  how lawyers promote prosperity in the United States and beyond its borders through their legal services.  Those essays provide a spirited and detailed defense against the recent, uninformed and short-sighted attacks against legal education from politicians, gadflies, media “talking heads,” journalists, anonymous scam bloggers, some members of our own profession and even, perhaps inexplicably, members of the academy.  The post below is an edited excerpt from Dean Miller’s chapter, called “Data and Scholarship on Lawyer Economic Activity.” 
So, esteemed law scholar Brian Tamanaha of Washington University Law School publishes a book arguing that there are too many new lawyers.  We should respect Professor Tamanaha’s sensitive view that law schools need to teach more practically while keeping tuition low.  Those commitments are Cooley’s mission.  Where we disagree is with Professor Tamanaha’s view that there are too many new lawyers.  While the too-many view is fine to teach at some law schools, especially those schools that market themselves as producing and preserving an elite profession, Cooley has a far more robust vision for lawyers.  Every well-trained, responsible, and committed lawyer has a greater productive capacity than a non-lawyer.  Lawyers are wealth creators.  There is not a finite need for law services.  Law practice is not a zero-sum game.  Law services make it possible to grow larger economies.
A few decades ago, some were predicting over capacity for automotive production because nearly every American household had a vehicle.  Now, every American has one, and the Chinese buy more vehicles than Americans in an enormous new market.  We are also far more productive because of that added transportation.  A while ago, some were saying that we had enough computers.  Then Apple invented the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.  Everyone has them, and we are far more productive.
Just when the law profession should be seeing its best business case as a value creator and adder, Professor Tamanaha’s view sounds more like traditional zero-sum thinking.  Under that thinking, accountants would form limited liability companies and corporations, real estate agents would prepare leases and sales contracts, and non-lawyer title services would draft deeds–all without adequately advising their clients of important rights and obligations.  Are medical schools advertising that there are too many healers?  Are engineering schools advertising that there are too many builders?
Cooley is doing a better job of teaching new lawyers that they have something sound, fundamental, and creative to offer, as value creators and value adders.  Not all new lawyers will be prosecutors and trial lawyers.  Some will start new businesses or grow old businesses using their practical knowledge of how to organize, capitalize, comply, and manage.  Others will create new public charities using their skills and living their passion.  Still others will fill the huge gaps in legal services to the urban and rural under-served by creating visionary new law products and delivery systems.
Professor Tamanaha’s view is fine for some schools and lawyers.  It is not the vision that my clients wanted to hear from me.  They wanted to know a more profound truth, that the rule and productive capacity of law with which I could help them was a wealth creator.  What we need is a supply of lawyers who hold that productive vision.  I agree with Professor Tamanaha that we need fewer lawyers who fail to see their role in wealth creation.  I disagree that we need fewer lawyers.

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