No African-American Lawyers Allowed: The Inefficient Racism of the Aba's Accreditation of Law Schools

Emory University School of Law Working Paper

121 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2001

Date Written: March 5, 2001


Economic analysis demonstrates that, continuing from its intentionally racist beginnings in the 1920s, the American Bar Association's system for accrediting law schools excludes most African-Americans from the legal profession, while allowing whites to enter. The discriminatory impact of ABA accreditation takes two forms. First, the ABA accreditation standards inflict academic racism. The standards impose academic requirements that African-Americans tend to lack, eliminating most schools that would serve average African-Americans. For example, the ABA generally denies accreditation to any school for which the average LSAT score is below 143. The average LSAT score for African-Americans is 142, compared to 152 for whites. The ABA's requirements of high undergraduate grades and high bar-pass rates are similarly discriminatory.

Second, ABA accreditation imposes financial racism. The accreditation requirements cause law schools' costs and tuition levels to more than double. Because African-Americans have far lower average incomes than whites, the requirements make law school affordable only for whites, not for most African-Americans.

Affirmative action and the availability of student loans counteract only a small part of the accreditation system's discriminatory impacts. Elimination of both accreditation and the bar exam would integrate the profession and provide many other benefits, while producing few harms.

JEL Classification: I2, K2, L8, K0

Suggested Citation

Shepherd, George B., No African-American Lawyers Allowed: The Inefficient Racism of the Aba's Accreditation of Law Schools (March 5, 2001). Emory University School of Law Working Paper, Available at SSRN: or

George B. Shepherd (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-606-2856 (Phone)
404-727-6820 (Fax)

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