Diversity and inclusion continue to be challenges for legal professions, according to the National Association for Law Placement’s Report on Diversity (PDF, 1.6 MB). Lack of diversity spans across a variety of categories, including gender, race, sexual orientation and disability.
This collection of resources highlights support systems that exist 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
The aforementioned NALP report highlights the state of diversity and inclusion among U.S. law firms on an annual basis. While some modest gains were achieved in 2019—for example, representation of people of color in associate level roles increased 1.2% between 2018 and 2019—the data show there is still a lot of work to be done.
Resources for Prospective and Current Law Students
To become a lawyer, individuals must first apply to, and then 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.
Diversity Scholarships for Law Students
The ABA scholarship page includes information on many diversity scholarships for law students offered by external sources. Opportunities include diversity scholarships that are open to all populations that are underrepresented in the legal field, as well as scholarships for specific populations, such as law students with disabilities.
Similar to the organization’s main website, the ABA for Law Students scholarship page includes a section dedicated to diversity scholarships. They also provide general information on financial aid and resources for law students with special needs.
CLEO “is committed to helping students from underrepresented backgrounds enter the legal profession.” Accordingly, they provide 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.
Law Student Associations and Organizations
CLEO is a national organization focused on expanding opportunities for law students from underrepresented backgrounds and individuals in need of financial assistance. They offer a variety of resources, including their flagship program, Prelaw Summer Institute, which is “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 that provides students and attorneys the opportunity to discuss issues facing the Latino community.
Established in 1997, NASALSA is an organization “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 organization helps facilitate student-led conferences and events and brings issues affecting Latino and Hispanic communities to light.
Founded in 1970, NNALSA supports law students “who are 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 that other lawyers do not. Joining a professional organization that focuses on diversity can help individuals find support, gain access to resources and engage in networking opportunities.
Legal Professional Organizations
Formed in 2004, CCWC is a professional organization made up 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 that “represents the interests of Hispanic legal professionals in the United States and its territories.” Established in 1972, HNBA aims to be “more than a bar organization” by focusing on advocacy around issues that affect Hispanic communities in addition to providing professional support to members.
Made up of more than 320 corporate chief legal officers and law firm managing partners, this organization works to build an open and diverse legal profession through their programs and resources.
The MCCA provides a set of 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.”
NAPABA is a professional organization for the Asian and Pacific American legal community that works through membership, events, advocacy and research to increase and support its members.
NAMWOLF is a nonprofit trade association of women- and minority-owned law firms and other interested parties in the United States. They serve 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 and other opportunities to empower women working 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 comprises 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 aims to “strengthen the rapidly growing South Asian legal community with a recognized and trusted forum for professional growth and advancement and promotes the civil 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
- 2Civility: It’s Time to Remove Professional Barriers for Lawyers With Disabilities
- The Association of Legal Administrators Diversity Toolkit (PDF, 187 KB)
- American Bar Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Center
- Center for Legal Inclusiveness: Education
- Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s Sustaining Pathways to Diversity Research Reports
- Out Leadership: Insights
- The Business of Inclusion: Raising the Bar on LGBT Diversity (PDF, 351 KB)
- Washington Initiative for Diversity: Resources