State Bar of CA says more attorneys of color needed to serve diverse population

The State Bar of California has released a new report showing the state’s attorney pool is not representative of the population and that could be having a negative impact on our state’s justice system.  

Collecting this date is necessary and for the first time, the State Bar of California says the public can see who’s representing the people of California in cases all across the state. 

"Particularly with Hispanics and Latinos, very significantly underrepresented in the ranks of attorneys," said Leah Wilson, State Bar of CA Executive Director.  

Leah Wilson, Exec Director for the State Bar of CA, says research shows Hispanics and Latinos make up 36% of the state’s adult population and only 6% of all licensed attorneys. African Americans are 6% of the adult population, and three percent of California’s attorneys.  

"I think it has a direct impact on the trust and confidence that people of color have in our justice system. I think it’s very difficult when you do not see yourself represented, either by the attorney that is representing you or on the other side or the judge," Wilson said.  

As for Asian Americans, they’re 16% of the state’s adult population and 14% of the attorneys, having the most parity for all people of color. Wilson says having the data is the first step to increasing diversity for California’s attorneys.  

"We have been very focused as the State Bar on what our role is here in terms of impacting these numbers and driving change, and we do have a role," Wilson said.   

Admitting and keeping people in law school is also key. UC Berkeley’s School of Law says it considers an applicant’s entire life experience for admissions, and it’s helped them to welcome more students from diverse backgrounds.  

"In that way, it’s made a great deal of space for people who, they don’t have the strongest undergraduate record, but they went to school 15 years ago, and they have a career. So that’s not necessarily relevant," said Kristin Theis-Alvarez, UC Berkeley School of Law Dean of Admissions.   

Wilson says most CA law schools have retention programs that help students graduate. Now the State Bar says its goal is to provide even more support through similar programs to the next generation of lawyers.