Only 5% of lawyers are Black even though African Americans comprise 13% of the total population (ABA)
Okay, let's talk about the cause of this percentage being so low:
1. A Foreign and Complex Admission Process
Should I get a pre-law undergraduate degree? Does my LSAT score really matter? What should I write my personal statement about? Do I need to write an addendum? What about a diversity statement? How likely is a merit scholarship? When should I take the LSAT? Can I apply to schools before getting my LSAT score?
As a pre-law student, I asked these questions because I did not know any attorneys. As such, Google was my best resource, but Google couldn't provide the answers I needed because, well, if only 5% of lawyers are Black, imagine how little information comes up in a search result about law school diversity statements. Accordingly, the application process can be intimidating and overwhelming, to say the least. Moreover, not knowing anyone who had gone through the admissions process makes the law school admission process much more difficult.
2. Fees on top of Fees: From the cost of an LSAT Prep Course, taking the LSAT, Applying, and more.
You can buy LSAT prep books off Amazon, but nothing compares to an actual study course. Trust me: I tried to cut corners before giving in and paying for an LSAT prep course (by the way, there’s free LSAT prep available, and the Pre-Law Masterclass teaches you how to use the course effectively. Then, after you've spent the monthly fees on the course, you are now ready to make an account on the LSAC website. The LSAC website, which you are required to use to register for the LSAT, states the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) "simplifies your law school application process," but the reality is it acts as a gatekeeper, because simple or not, it's the only way your law school applications can be submitted. Cost to register with CAS? Currently $195. Then? No, you can't put that debit card away yet; keep it out so you can pay to register for the exam. Cost? Currently $200. And it doesn't end there. You still have to pay school application fees plus $45 for LSAC to send a report (per application). Or do you?
Technically you don't. It is possible to waive the LSAT fee, LSAC report fees, and school application fees. (It's even possible to go to law school on a full scholarship. Don't believe me? Click here and look at the acceptance letters yourself.)
Nevertheless, with a rapidly approaching deadline to register, I forewent applying for a waiver. Instead, it was either borrow money from a friend or risk missing the test registration deadline. Naturally, I went with the former: I sucked up my pride and asked a friend to borrow the money.
Pro Tip I Wish I Knew Then: If LSAC denies your fee waiver request, you can appeal the denial. But, if you plan to go this route, give yourself plenty of time so you're not racing against a registration deadline. Even better, consult with Attorney Jas (of jastalkslaw.com), who can assist with the appeal process: click here to book a call.
3. The Cost of Study Time (Because Time Is Necessary and A Luxury for real)
This. I cannot stress this enough. Law school is hard for real—the real kind of hard (you'll see what I mean when you get there). No one expects it to be easy; however, unlike an undergraduate degree (where if you're smart, you might be able to get by turning in last-minute assignments), there is no such thing as passing a class if you don't have the time to study. It doesn't matter how compelling an argument you can make if you haven't read all of the assigned cases. Trust me, I tried: and failed. Don't be like me. Read all the assigned cases. Yes, all of them. Brief them too. (Don't trip, the 1L Success Academy will teach you how to brief cases, so you are "ahead of the game" come fall.)
Fun Fact: The average 1L (first year) law student reads cases at the rate of approximately ten (10) pages per hour. Five or more cases per class times three to five classes... you do the math. Law school is time-consuming. (Then add outlining, practice exam questions, legal research, and writing memos for a bit of razzle-dazzle.)
Understanding the cost of study time is why most students don't work their first year and why law schools discourage students from working their first year (and even band working at some law schools). Moreover, lawyers will highly discourage you from working your first year. But, who can afford not to work? So, I'll let that question sit there. But maybe you should read the question twice and let it sink in.
I can't even count how many times I wished I could buy a few extra hours in the day. You can pay for a maid service. You can pay the laundromat for fluff n' fold service (HIGHLY recommend, by the way, complete game changer). Moreover, in 2021 you can pay for your groceries to be delivered. But you can't pay for there to be 28 hours in the day instead of 24. The closest thing you can do is free up some of your days by working fewer hours. Click here if you need help with time management. Personally, this has been my biggest challenge. There are no scheduling or time management tricks that can take two to four hours a day to study enough. Trust me, my tutor and I both tried to create time, and that is why the cost of study time is a big, if not the biggest, factor influencing the percentage of Black attorneys in the United States.
4. The Cost of Bar Prep (Courses, Tutoring & More Time Off Work to Study)
I'll admit, this is a step that I've yet to take, but even Google or Siri can tell you studying for the bar exam is a full-time job. Literally. And all of my friends who have passed the bar have said the same. It's common for law graduates to request a leave absence from work (if they were working) during bar prep to make sure they have 40-50 hours per week to study. This need requires the luxury of time. (Are you starting to notice a pattern?) Add to that the cost of bar prep courses and tutoring.
All in all, most first-generation law students are taking on something completely foreign and costly with little resources or guidance. Don't believe me? Take it from Attorney Jas:
"I am the first lawyer in my family. As such, I barely made it to law school. Writing a personal statement made me cringe. I was discouraged by my LSAT score. And the tuition price tag? It didn’t seem possible. I didn’t know how to choose a law school, fill out applications strategically, or prepare for the LSAT." - Attorney Jas
Attorney Jas created Jas Talks Law to enhance cultural diversity within the legal field by providing resources, services, and a support system for future lawyers struggling to find equity in a process and system made to keep us out.
Only 5% of lawyers are Black, but Jas Talks Law is here to help you, and me, become one of them and, as a result, increase the 5% of lawyers that are black.
This blog post was written by a law student, Whitney Shepard, and edited by Attorney Jasmin Robinson. All rights reserved.