Affirmative Action in American Law Schools

45 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2008

See all articles by Gail L. Heriot

Gail L. Heriot

American Civil Rights Project; U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; Manhattan Institute

Date Written: July, 16 2008


The United States Commission on Civil Rights recently held a briefing entitled, "Affirmative Action in American Law Schools" at which witnesses with differing perspectives discussed troubling evidence that race-based affirmative action policies may have harmed rather than helped minority students who aspire to become attorneys. In the report the Commission later issued, it took no position on whether this evidence was sufficient to recommend that these policies be discontinued. Instead, it made a number of important recommendations most of which were designed to ensure transparency. Most significantly, the Commission recommended that each law school inform its prospective students (minority or otherwise) of the probability that they will ultimately graduate from that institution and pass the bar given their individual entering academic credentials. Those students could then decide for themselves which law school will best serve their needs. The Commission also recommended that the American Bar Association Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar refrain from setting a uniform diversity policy for law schools. Under the Commission's vision, the discretion to formulate diversity policy would reside with each law school. The views put forth here are those of one member of the Commission in connection with that report.

Keywords: affirmative action, Commission on Civil Rights, Law Schools, Student Admissions, Diversity

JEL Classification: K00, K10

Suggested Citation

Heriot, Gail L., Affirmative Action in American Law Schools (July, 16 2008). Journal of Contemporary Legal issues, Vol. 17, 2008, San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 08-041, Available at SSRN:

Gail L. Heriot (Contact Author)

American Civil Rights Project ( email )

P.O. Box 12207
Dallas, TX 75225
United States


U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

1331 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Suite 1150
Washington, DC 20425

Manhattan Institute ( email )

52 Vanderbilt Avenue
New York, NY 10017
United States

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