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  • Mark Zahner

How Minorities are Helping Shape the Legal System

Updated: Jul 22, 2019

It’s no secret that there is a severe lack of diversity in the American legal system. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), 85% of nationally certified lawyers are white, while only 5% are black, 2% are Asian, and 5% are Hispanic. ABA also found that 64% of bar-certified lawyers are male and only 36% are female.

Equality is essential throughout all professions, but it’s especially important in law. For minorities to shape the legal system and start bringing change for those who need it most around the country, they first need a place within the system. It’s also important that the decisions made in prosecution offices represent the cultural and racial realities of the communities they protect. Additionally, a community’s perception of fairness can be enhanced if its members feel that they have something in common with the people who work as prosecutors. To make this happen, we need to improve the racial diversity and representation within the ranks of public lawyers, as they influence who is and is not charged with crimes, and make recommendations to judges in issues of probation, sentencing, and diversion.

A study conducted by Stanford University found that African-Americans comprise 5.7 percent of California’s population and 5.8 percent of its prosecutors. Asians comprise 14.2 percent of the state’s population and 11.8 percent of its prosecutors. Latinos, however, are heavily under-represented, the report found. Latinos comprise 38.6 percent of the state’s population, but only 9.4 percent of its prosecutors.

1. Connecting with a diverse community

Many victims in minority groups are hesitant to turn to the law for help. People connect most strongly with others of a similar background and race, so more minorities in law—as police officers and as prosecutors—can mean greater trust with the system.

2. Improving the outcome

Trial attorneys can also have a greater impact on jury members and witnesses of the same minority. Once in the courtroom, the verdict can completely depend on the connections made between the people in the room. Since many of the witnesses and jury members may represent different minorities, these connections are vital to a just verdict.

3. Creating opportunities for future generations

Every group of diverse lawyers creates new opportunities for people of other minorities pursuing law. As current lawyers provide more mentoring and networking resources, upcoming attorneys gain access to better jobs and bigger platforms. The more influence a minority lawyer has, the more people they can help and reach. To truly reach their potential and continue affecting equality in the legal world, minorities first need the opportunity to succeed.

Have you seen minorities change the legal system? Share your story in the comments!

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