In a closely watched case that will have ramifications for all who have a stake in advancing diversity in the legal profession — and for that matter any profession requiring a college or graduate degree — the Boston Bar Association today announced that it has filed an amicus brief in Fisher v. University of Texas, et. al., Supreme Court of the United States No. 11-354. The question the Supreme Court is expected to answer is “Whether [the] Court’s decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, including Grutter v. Bollinger, permit the University of Texas at Austin’s use of race in undergraduate admission decisions.”
Joining the BBA in its amicus brief is a coalition of organizations united by a shared commitment to advancing diversity in the legal profession. These organizations share the BBA’s concern for diversity in higher education, recognizing that diversity within the legal profession cannot be achieved without a pipeline of diverse law school students, and diversity at the law school level, in turn, cannot be supported without diverse representation in undergraduate institutions. Signatories to the BBA’s amicus brief include major employers such as EMC Corporation, a world leader in cloud computing and data storage; and National Grid USA, a company serving more than 7 million gas and electric customers; as well as the City of Boston; the Office of the General Counsel of Partners HealthCare System, Inc.; Greater Boston Legal Services; 10 other bar associations, and 22 well-respected private law firms.
“The filing of the brief we announced today underscores our values as an institution, and builds on many of the points made in the BBA’s amicus brief in Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003,” said BBA President Lisa C. Goodheart. “Getting into college is a key step on the path to becoming an attorney. For that reason, ensuring that undergraduate institutions as well as law schools have the tools they need to admit racially and ethnically diverse classes of students is critically important in terms of our goal of achieving greater diversity and inclusion within the legal profession.”
The brief submitted to the Supreme Court in Fisher highlights the value of race-conscious admissions policies, and makes these and other points:
- Persons of color remain significantly under-represented in undergraduate student bodies, law schools and, consequently, the legal profession.
- Under-representation of lawyers of color harms the legal profession and society as a whole.
- According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 27.6 per cent of the population are persons of color. In contrast, persons of color accounted for only 11.1 per cent of the legal profession as of 2011.
- Between 2000 and 2009, the enrollment of law students of color increased by only 1.3 per cent.
- The lack of diversity in the legal profession erodes public confidence in the judicial system.
- Diversity within the bar increases the capacity to provide culturally competent legal services to all clients, including some of the most disenfranchised populations seeking access to justice.
- The legal profession needs diversity in its ranks, and the additional skills and perspectives which diverse attorneys possess, in order to effectively attract, represent, and retain an increasingly diverse client base here and abroad.
- For many businesses, diversity is not only a matter of what may be socially desirable or just, but also a matter of sound business practices and economic survival.
- The limited use of race in educational admissions processes remains vital to the legal profession’s efforts to achieve racial and ethnic diversity.
Advancing diversity and inclusion is something the BBA strives for continuously — as demonstrated by the activities of its Diversity & Inclusion Section, and also by the BBA’s institutional relationships with the affinity bar associations which are provided with offices at the BBA’s headquarters on Beacon Hill. Diversity pipeline programs developed by the BBA include a Summer Jobs Enrichment Program for high school students conducted in partnership with the Boston Public Schools and the Boston Private Industry Council, and a new partnership with the Boston Debate League, which works with students in the City’s high schools.
Below is a full list of signatories to the BBA’s amicus brief in Fisher:
National Grid USA
City of Boston
Anderson & Kreiger LLP
Brennan, Dain, Le Ray, Wiest, Torpy & Garner, P.C.
Brown Rudnick LLP
Burns & Levinson LLP
Davis, Malm & D’Agostine, P.C.
Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP
Foley Hoag LLP
Goulston & Storrs – A Professional Corporation
Greater Boston Legal Services
Krokidas & Bluestein
Looney & Grossman LLP
Medical-Legal Partnership | Boston, a program of Third Sector New England, Inc.
Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP
Nixon Peabody LLP
Office of the General Counsel, Partners HealthCare System, Inc.
Prince Lobel Tye LLP
Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster
Rose, Chinitz & Rose
Sherin and Lodgen LLP
Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C.
Sunstein Kann Murphy & Timbers LLP
Verrill Dana LLP
Yurko, Salvesen & Remz, P.C.
Zalkind, Rodriguez, Lunt & Duncan, LLP
The Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts
Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys
Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association
The Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys
Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association
South Asian Bar Association Greater Boston
Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts
Beverly Hills Bar Association
The Cincinnati Bar Association
Bar Association of San Francisco