This collection of resources highlights support systems to help students from diverse backgrounds seeking a legal education, such as Juris Doctor (J.D.) or Master of Legal Studies (MLS), as well as guidance for legal organization leaders to support diversity and inclusion.
The Current State of Diversity in the Legal Profession
In 2021, the American Bar Association released its Diversity Model Survey Report, the first report on diversity, equity and inclusion in law firm practice. The survey captured three years of data at firms of various sizes:
Small: 1–20 attorneys
Medium: 21–100 attorneys
Large: 101–400 attorneys
Overall Firm Demographics for Equality Partners by Firm Size in 2019
Resources for Prospective and Current Law Students
To become a lawyer, individuals must apply to, attend and graduate from an accredited Juris Doctor (J.D.) program. Prospective and current students can leverage resources from a variety of diversity organizations to be successful in their education.
The ABA scholarship page includes information on many diversity scholarships for law students offered by external sources. Opportunities include diversity scholarships open to all populations that are underrepresented in the legal field, as well as scholarships for specific populations, such as law students with disabilities.
CLEO “is committed to helping students from underrepresented backgrounds enter the legal profession” and provides a list of scholarships and financial aid resources for law students. While many of the opportunities listed are available to all law students, this resource page focuses on helping students from diverse populations prepare for the cost of their education.
LSAC offers a resource page for students “from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds” that includes scholarships from external organizations, summer prelaw programs and other opportunities for new and returning law students.
CLEO is a national organization focused on expanding opportunities for law students from underrepresented backgrounds and those in need of financial assistance. They offer a variety of resources, including the Prelaw Summer Institute, their flagship program “designed to familiarize and better prepare students to succeed in law school.”
This coalition of Latino students seeks to advance Latinos in the legal profession through networking, events and an annual conference where students and attorneys can discuss issues facing the Latino community.
Established in 1997, NASALSA is “dedicated to creating a strong network and community among South Asian law students and legal professionals throughout the United States and Canada.” The nonprofit offers a mentorship program, events and other resources to help South Asian law students pursue a career in the legal field.
NBLSA aims to “promote the educational, professional, political and social needs and goals of Black law students.” This includes providing learning opportunities for members and addressing concerns of the Black community to bring about legal and political change.
NLLSA was “founded on principles of social, ethnic, racial, gender and sexual equality,” and aims to empower Latino and Latina law students through academic success and community service. The nonprofit facilitates student-led conferences and events and brings issues affecting Latino and Hispanic communities to light.
Founded in 1970, NNALSA supports law students “interested in the study of Federal Indian Law, Tribal Law and traditional forms of governance.” In addition to supporting Native American law students, the organization strives to promote Indigenous legal issues.
Diversity Resources for Legal Professionals
Members of diverse populations who work in all areas of law may face additional challenges than other lawyers. Joining a professional organization that focuses on diversity can help them find support and resources and engage in networking opportunities.
Formed in 2004, CCWC is a professional organization of women of color “who serve as general counsel, assistant general counsel, corporate counsel, in-house legal counsel and in other capacities for Fortune 1000 companies, Forbes 2000 companies, not-for-profit corporations” and other organizations. CCWC aims to help women attorneys of color advance their careers and promote diversity in the legal field.
HNBA is a national nonprofit representing the interests of Hispanic legal professionals in the United States and its territories. Established in 1972, HNBA strives to be “more than a bar organization” by focusing on advocacy on issues that affect Hispanic communities in addition to providing professional support to members.
The MCCA provides recommended practices for law firms to increase their diversity with statistics, interviews and best practices for law firms to advance “the hiring, retention and promotion of diverse lawyers.”
NAMWOLF is a nonprofit trade association of law firms owned by women, minorities and other interested parties in the United States. It serves members through Practice Area Committees, inclusion and diversity initiatives, events and more.
NAWL aims to “provide leadership, a collective voice and essential resources to advance women in the legal profession and advocate for the equality of women under the law.” The organization provides national and regional year-round programming, networking and leadership opportunities to empower women in the legal field.
The LGBT Bar “promotes justice in and through the legal profession for the LGBTQ+ community in all its diversity.” Founded more than 30 years ago, the LGBT Bar became an official affiliate of the ABA in 1992. The association includes lawyers, judges, law students, activists and affiliated LGBTQ+ legal organizations.
NNABA is an organization of attorneys who are U.S. citizens and citizens of their respective Tribal nations and who work to protect the governmental sovereignty of the more than 560 independent Tribal governments in the United States.
SABA provides the South Asian legal community with a forum for professional growth and advancement and works to “promote equal rights and access to justice for the South Asian community.” Members can engage in advocacy, attend events, access resources and participate in regional chapters of the association.
Diversity Resources and Further Reading for Leaders of Legal Organizations