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Why Black Counselor?



The Underrepresentation/Over Representation Crisis While it is largely understood that the U.S. population is 70% white and 30% racial and ethnic minorities, the legal profession fails to mirror the population. Nearly 90% of the legal profession is white, with racial and ethnic minorities making up the remaining 10%- 11%. According to U.S. census data, the practicing African-American lawyer and judge population consists of the following :

 

Ethnicity

U.S. Population
as of 2008

No. of Judges

% of Judge Population

No. of Lawyers

% of Lawyer Population

Ratio of Lawyers To Individual U.S. Consumers by Ethnicity

Total
Representation of  U.S. Population

White

305 million

10,200

89%

786,730

90.3%

1 to 381

75.1%

African-American

35 million

665

5.9%

33,865

3.9%

1 to 1,034

12.3%

 

Total state court judges as of 2008 equaled 11,344.

 

Furthermore, less than 3% of all partners in the nation's law firms are racial minorities, and that number falls to less than 2% in the largest and most profitable firms. In the 77 largest firms in New York City, 34 out of 4400 partners are African American—a rate of 3/4 of 1% In the 40 largest firms in Chicago, only 46 out of almost 3000 partners are African American.  There are fewer active African American federal appellate judges today than when Jimmy Carter was President. We have moved backwards despite the addition of forty-seven seats to the federal Courts of Appeals between 1979 and 1999. Three-quarters of the federal circuit courts now have either no African American or no Latino jurist

 

In contrast to the lawyer population, the total U.S. Prison population of 2,193,798 is 41% or approximately 820,000 African-American.  It is estimated that there are less than 800 African-American criminal law lawyers in the entire U. S.  Not only are African-American’s over represented in the prison system (there being ten times more African-American’s in the prison system than in the legal profession) and underrepresented in the legal profession,  the American Bar Association has found that the number minorities, particularly African-American, enrolling in law schools has decreased since 2004.  'Minority representation among law students has dropped, from 20.6 percent in 2001-2002 to 20.3 percent in 2003-2004,' said the findings in the third edition of "Miles to Go: Progress of Minorities in the Legal Profession," published by the ABA's Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Legal Profession.  "Miles to Go" finds that African-American representation in law is less than other professions, like teaching and medicine. ( Kenneth Mallory The Chicago Defender August 5, 2005).  The following statistics may explain, to some degree, why the African-American prisoner and lawyer representations are so disproportionate:

 

  • Of black males born in a given year, 29% can expect to spend some time behind bars. National Urban League State of Black America 2006
  • One in 14 black children has a parent in jail or prison. National Urban League State of BlackAmerica 2006
  • One in 20 black men is incarcerated, compared to one in 155 white men. National Urban League
  • For every three black men in college, four are in prison. Seattle Post-Intelligencer March 30th,2006.
  • Nationally, more than half of urban black men do not finish high school. Seattle Post-Intelligencer,March 30th, 2006.

 

What is most troubling is the alarming number of African-American lawyers that leave the profession to pursue an alternative career outside of law. The American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession conducted a study to see why women of color, in particular, have left the profession, which was published in the 2006 report titled Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms.  The report revealed that implicit and explicit bias, exclusion, inadequate support and disparity in compensation were among the obstacles women of color faced. In contrast to the legal profession, the African-American owned business sectors has been the fasting growing segment of new businesses, growing 45 percent between 1997-2002.  In 2002, African-American owned businesses accounted for 5% of all nonfarm businesses in the United States.  In 2002, the approximately 1.2 million African-American owned businesses collectively generated approximately 89 billion in revenues and employed approximately 756,000 people.   Almost 4 in 10 African-American owned businesses (38 percent) were owned by women.   Approximately 1,000 of the 1.2 million African-American owned businesses collectively generated on average $16 billion in annual revenues with the top 100 African-American businesses averaging approximately $500 million in annual revenues.  

 

While the incarceration rate of African-Americans is polar opposite to the growth and prosperity rate of African-American business community, these two subgroups within the African-American community nation-wide (which are roughly equal in size) share one thing in common and that is neither group can locate African-American lawyers who can meet their legal needs.  The African-American business community as well as the incarcerated community is essentially underrepresented creating a void that needs to be filled.  The problem - African-American lawyers are virtually invisible to their own community that needs their expertise to address serious social issues as wells as complex business legal issues. Although the approximately 33,000 African-American lawyers in the U.S. can’t possibly meet all the needs of the approximately 40 million African-Americans in the U.S., there is certainly enough legal business from the African-American business community and the criminal justice system, along with other areas of the legal services, that each and every African-American lawyer who graduates from law school should be employed and the rate of African-American lawyers leaving the profession should cease.  The problem, there is no connectively between African-American lawyers and their potential new clients.  What is connectivity solution? Black Counselor.

 

 

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