Legal field looks for more diversity


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Ever persuaded your parents to let you borrow Dad’s new car? Did you read all the terms and conditions for Facebook when you set up your account? Successfully challenge a parking ticket you got on campus?

You might be a lawyer and not even know it.

And if you happen to come from a unique cultural background, the news gets better: Today, the legal community is more eager than ever to hire talented people of color.

Our nation’s true diversity is not represented in the legal field today. In the entire American legal system — clerks, judges, lawyers, and everything in between — only 13 percent are people of color.

Tighten the lens in on lawyers in the U.S., only 4 percent are Asian, 5 percent are black, and 4 percent are Latino.

Of all the lawyers in Iowa, only 1.3 percent are people of color, according to the Iowa State Bar Association. The pool of diverse candidates is shrinking. Those with knowledge of various ethnicities and languages combined with a deep knowledge of the legal system will create a force to be reckoned with.

It’s also a very profitable source.

Recent studies prove that companies with the highest level of ethnic diversity brought in 15 percent more revenue on average compared with companies with the lowest levels of diversity. Today’s law firms and corporate/public legal departments need lawyers with diverse backgrounds who see the world from a different view.

This change is real, and it is happening today. What’s stopping you from being part of it?

Here at the University of Iowa, the College of Law helps train students from all backgrounds, experiences, and ethnicities — something it has done for almost 150 years. It even offers informational tours of its program. You can call 335-9095 or visit law.uiowa.edu/prospective to learn more. And if the College of Law is not for your future law studies, there’s a wealth of law schools across the Midwest to choose from.

Experts agree that greater diversity will lead to a fairer legal system. So yes, you could be a big shot.

Yes, you could make great money. But you could also serve the community by doing something quite noble. If it’s even been just a fleeting thought in your mind, you owe yourself, and the future of our legal system, a little time to explore this field to find out if this could be the career you’ve been looking for.

If you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, and convinced your parents to stop asking you about it, you definitely might be a lawyer. Start your journey today by visiting www.breakintolaw.org and take that first step.

Valerie Jensen is the executive director of Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, an organization dedicated to promoting and supporting diverse attorneys.

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