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. He has been instrumental to the success of three metropolitan Detroit diversity pipeline programs — the Just the Beginning Foundation High School Summer Legal Institute, the ABA Council of Legal Education Opportunity College Pre-Law Summer Institute, and the Wolverine Bar Association Judicial Externship Program.
Cooley’s mission includes “providing broad access to those who seek the opportunity to study law, while requiring those to whom that opportunity is offered to meet Cooley’s rigorous academic standards.” One major benefit of this part of Cooley’s mission is the extent to which we are helping to diversify the legal profession.
Based on the most recent five years of data published in the 2009-2013 editions of the ABA Official Guide to Law Schools, Cooley has graduated more minority students during this period than any law school in the country, with a total of 958 minority graduates. Rounding out the top five schools were Harvard (865), Loyola Marymount (784), Georgetown (775), and American University (747).
The two largest racial and ethnic groups that face the greatest discrimination in American legal education today are African-Americans and Hispanics. During the first decade of this century, nearly two-thirds of all African-American applicants and nearly half of all Hispanic applicants were denied admission to every ABA-approved law school to which they applied, compared to less than one-third of all Caucasian applicants.
Cooley ranks third in African-American graduates with 439, behind only Howard (558) and Texas Southern (460). Rounding out the top five schools were Southern University (389) and North Carolina Central (376).
Cooley ranks 8th in Hispanic graduates with 222. The top five schools were Texas (343), St. Thomas-Florida (321), American University (287), St. Mary’s (269), and Florida International (256).
Cooley also ranks 15th in Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander graduates with 238. The top five schools were California-Hastings (480), Loyola Marymount (468), Santa Clara (374), Brooklyn (352), and Harvard (327).
And Cooley ranks 18th in American Indian/Alaskan Native graduates with 17. The top five schools were Oklahoma (80), New Mexico (59), Denver (48), Arizona State (47), Oklahoma City (43), and Tulsa (43).
Only four schools in the country made the top 20 list in all five of these categories – American University, George Washington, Harvard, and Cooley.
Of course, graduation does not guarantee entry into the legal profession. To achieve that, graduates must first pass a state bar examination. Two well-documented studies, one by the Law School Admissions Council and one by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, have established that African-Americans face the greatest challenge in passing the bar examination, which is as much a comment on the validity of bar examinations as a barrier to entering the profession as anything else. But in the five most recent years for which our graduates have had at least two full calendar years to attempt to pass the exam, our African-American graduates have exceeded the ultimate pass rates for African-Americans documented in these studies in every one of those five years.
Inquiries about these studies or the top 20 lists compiled for this article should be directed to Professor and Associate Dean John Nussbaumer at firstname.lastname@example.org.