Russell Brunelle (russellb) wrote,
Russell Brunelle

Law Schools and Diversity

Almost all law schools promote the diversity of their student body in their marketing materials, making the (perfectly valid) point that educational environments are enriched by class discussions which include divergent points of view. Having said this, I can't help but notice that not every form of diversity actually impacts class discussions, though some unexpected ones do.

As I see it the underlying issue is that law school is closer to medical school than the humanities, in terms of the demand it places on students to learn large amounts of technical material: there just isn't time in class to spend talking about our backgrounds or personal lives, and indeed as I think back on the last six months I can't recall a single clear instance of a question or comment being radically different than it might otherwise be due to ethnicity, country of origin, or socio-economic background. We're all required to learn the same set of material, and our questions and comments tend to focus on that exactly that material.

Having said that, there are a few forms of diversity which actually have impacted class discussions so far, at least to a minor degree. They are:

  1. Where a student falls on the fundamental question of what duty the state should assume to shield us from our own bad decisions, carelessness, or misfortune. Class discussions, even on public policy matters, never turn partisan in the Democrat v. Republican sense, but they're inevitably charged by this fundamental question.
  2. Experience with radically different legal systems. Military justice is the primary example. I suppose experience with religious law (e.g. Islamic law) could be another.
  3. Significant real-world experience in a law-making body (i.e. legislature), or significant experience at a non-profit organization which could influence public policy.

In short, the forms of diversity with the greatest impact are those which either affect how students think about law's place in society, or which allow them to contrast our legal system with another.
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