Because of this site, I keep updated on stats regarding Latinx lawyers and lawyers of color in general. We, Latina lawyers, keep staying at 1.3% of the profession–it’s a neat little trivia fact I like to pull out when I can. The other day I mentioned this to a White colleague who was shocked at the low rate of Latina lawyers. And then she genuinely asked what could she do to improve diversity in the legal field.
I talk a lot (a lot) about what our community can do, about what we can do as individuals, not because I think the onus is on us, but because no one is going to care about our advancement and progress more than us. But I’m glad I was given this bit of a segue to say that this job of advancement and progress is not just on us! White people, or anyone that benefits from systems of power, have a duty to act and to help.
So, to be blunt, what can White people do to create real diversity in the legal field?
The first step is acknowledging that there is a need for diversity and that there is a problem with under-representation. This can be hard because if you’re not used to seeking out diversity, then the default (i.e. being around a lot of white people) seems normal. If you want to be a real ally and supporter, you need to be aware of your surroundings and ask yourself: Why are there barely any people of color at my job? My school? The organizations I participate in? HINT: the answer isn’t because people of color are unqualified.
You also have to seek out diverse candidates and colleagues–don’t expect us to come to you. If you are a practicing attorney, then there is a chain of command on how to address this (or there should be), but if your firm is 2000andlate and has yet to create a diversity committee or has one, but isn’t a real thing, then step up to the plate and try make some changes. Studies have shown that when white people promote the importance of diversity they are taken seriously (more so than POC). We need your help. If you’re a student, then you have such capacity to create organizations, events, committees that really hone in on issues. Simple things, like seeking out alumni of color can help change perceptions–and invite us to things that aren’t always about race! We’re multi-faceted beings. I can discuss issues and give advice that is universal.
Finally, the most important thing you must do if you want to increase diversity in the legal field is to promote good policies. I mean policies that address issues that begin way before the LSAT because there are an enormous amount of obstacles that Latinx attorneys face before we even get admitted into law school. If you’re truly serious about making changes than you need to get good with policies. You need to advocate for affirmative action and affordable education. You need to have a stance on ending the school to prison pipeline that is decimating our community. You should be aware of how the law enforcement community treats our youth, etc. etc. The barriers keeping us from higher education may seemingly have nothing to do with education, but these are all vital programs and policies that need support because we cannot become your colleagues until these barriers are dismantled.