(1) Introduction and Overview:
"A Systemic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools"

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First Posted Dec. 10, 2004
Updated July 9, 2006

          In a groundbreaking study of law school admission data, Professor Richard H. Sander analyzes empirical evidence that racial preferences (racial quotas) in law school admissions actually hurt the chances of success of black law school students.
NEWS May 9, 2006
Also be sure to see Sander's latest research:

The Racial Paradox of the Corporate Law Firm

Professor Richard H. Sander
Professor Richard H. Sander
         This study is no less remarkable for the fact that Professor Sander is a lifelong supporter of racial preferences.  Sander is credentialed, he's tenured, and he is well respected in academia.  And he has had the temerity to look at the actual data and conclude that racial preferences aren't delivering the social and economic benefits claimed by supporters.  Sander's remarkable research has stirred up a great deal of controversy among advocates of racial preferences.

Adversity.Net Review by Tim Fay

          Pretend for a moment that this discussion isn't about racial preferences.  Then ask yourself the following straightforward question:

QUESTION: What happens when elite, highly competitive, academically rigorous law schools for some strange reason recruit and admit students with below-average academic records from less competitive colleges which have less academically rigorous curricula than the admitting law school?

LOGICAL ANSWER: The below-average admittees fail to graduate law school at a higher rate than admittees with stronger academic backgrounds.   Of the under-performers who do graduate, they graduate nearer the bottom of their class much more often than admittees who had superior undergraduate academic credentials.   Finally, the law school underperformers tend to graduate near the bottom of their class and tend to fail the bar exam at a much higher rate than students whose academic abilities more closely match the demands of the law school.

          One would not expect any student to do well under such circumstances regardless of their race, ethnicity or national origin.

          So why do racial quota advocates, er, "advocates of racially sensitive law school admission polices", insist upon sending academically ill-prepared minorities to elite law schools whose rigorous academic standards virtually ensure a high failure rate? 

          The "why" cannot be easily explained except perhaps as a bad theory that has been implemented as social policy with little or no proof that it works. 

          But a recent landmark study of law school admissions proves that racial preference policies (sometimes referred to as "affirmative action" by supporters, and equally often referred to as "racial quotas" by detractors) actually harm black students' chances of success in the law profession.

          The author of this groundbreaking study is Professor Richard H. Sander of the UCLA law school. The exclusive focus of his study is on the negative effect of racial preferences in law school admissions on black students' performance in law school.  In the future he plans to conduct similar studies pertaining to the performance of other minority groups.

          Sander's study is titled "A Systemic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools".

          Sander's study shows that racial preferences in law school admissions result in a counterproductive mismatch between the academic abilities of black beneficiaries of racial preferences and the law schools to which these students are admitted under "affirmative action".  According to Sander's research, this mismatch demonstrably results in a much higher failure rate than would otherwise be the case if the black students were admitted to law schools which more closely matched the their academic preparation and abilities.

          In other words, black law school students are actually hurt by affirmative action (racial preference) policies.  According to Sander, black law school students would do much better academically and professionally if racial preferences either did not play a role in their admission to law schools, or played a significantly reduced role.

          But before the Congressional Black Caucus, Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, Gary Orfield, the so-called Harvard Civil Rights Project, and all the other usual suspects get their panties in a twist about this, the reader should know about Professor Sander's background.

          Professor Richard H. Sander is a lifelong liberal Democrat (he describes himself as a "progressive".)  He supported John Kerry for president in the 2004 presidential election.  Sander is a former VISTA volunteer.  He has sired a biracial child in a previous marriage.  He has long been an advocate of hyphenated "racial justice", and has long been a supporter of race-based affirmative action and racial preferences.  Sander has marched, worked, protested, and fought for special "remedial" treatment for blacks and other minorities throughout his entire life.

          Professor Sander is a highly respected academic.  His credentials within the racial preferences community are impeccable.  He is a tenured professor of law at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and is director of the Empirical Research Group at the UCLA law school.

          Sander has nonetheless had the intellectual integrity to objectively notice that when blacks are admitted to law schools based upon their race and with little regard to their ability to meet the academic demands of the law schools to which they are admitted, they fail at a much higher rate than if they had been admitted to less academically rigorous institutions whose intellectual demands much more closely match their actual academic and intellectual preparation.

          In this study Professor Sander does not condemn racial preferences in general.  Nor does he advocate for an end to racial preferences.  (Oh, well.  No one is perfect.)  He does, however, use statistical evidence to show that black law students would do significantly better if racial preferences were either not a factor in their admission to selected law schools or at least carried far less weight in their admission decisions.

          In a Nov. 5, 2004 article, the Wall Street Journal summarized the results of Sander's landmark study as follows:

          "The study found a stark achievement gap between blacks and whites throughout the nation's law schools.  Close to half of the black law students ended up in the bottom tenth of their class.  African-Americans were more than twice as likely as whites to drop out -- and more than six times as likely to fail state bar exams after multiple tries.

          "Prof. Sander argues that the reason for this outcome stems from a 'mismatch' between the credentials of the black students and the institutions they attend.  Because they have weaker credentials, he says, the students achieve lower grades.  And since grades are strongly correlated to success on the bar exam, he argues, these students failed the bar in higher numbers.

          "He argues that students who perform at the bottom of their classes at more selective colleges often are confused by tougher material taught at speeds that challenge higher-achieving classmates.  At less selective colleges, the material tends to be simpler, so these students can pull into the middle of their class and pick up the baseline information needed to pass the bar exam.  And he says there is a 'cascade effect' on every tier of law school, from Harvard and Yale down the ranks, ensuring that, at each level, blacks perform worse and are less likely to become lawyers.

          "By the study's tally, 86% of blacks currently admitted to law schools would still gain admission without preferences.  But they would attend less competitive schools, where they would compile stronger records. The remaining 14% -- 500 to 600 a year -- would likely drop out or fail the bar."

Last known link (pay site):

Download Sander's Stanford Law Article -- Updated July 9, 2006

          As an academic and a researcher Professor Richard H. Sander is nothing if not almost tediously thorough.  The unpublished draft of Sander's report is 113 pages long.  The FINAL draft (posted 7-09-06) is 117 pages long.  While the draft Stanford Law Review article is subject to further revisions prior to its pending, official publication, Adversity.Net readers may download the Nov. 1, 2004 rough draft of his pending Standford Law Review article in Adobe Acrobat format from either of the following two links, or they may download the FINAL draft of Sander's article:

Sander's Preliminary Draft: Sander's FINAL   Draft:
Adversity.Net Copy of Sander's Draft:
Sander Draft 11-01-04
Adversity.Net Copy of Sander's FINAL Draft (Posted 07-09-06)
Sander FINAL Article
Last known link to the UCLA Copy of Sander's Draft:
UCLA Copy of Sander Draft 11-01-04

Do Racial Preferences Limit Black Lawyers? -- National Journal Monday Dec. 6, 2004 by Stuart Taylor Jr.

          "The 35-year-old debate about affirmative action in university admissions has often focused on whether the supposed benefits to black and Hispanic students justify the costs to whites and Asians who lose out, and the resulting racial divisions and resentments.

          "Lately, some critics of racial preferences (including me) have also speculated that many of the supposed beneficiaries might be better off without preferences.  They are so much less qualified academically than their white and Asian classmates, this argument goes, that they end up near the bottom of their classes and drop out in disproportionate numbers.
NEWS May 9, 2006
Also be sure to see Sander's latest research:

The Racial Paradox of the Corporate Law Firm

          "Now comes Richard Sander, a UCLA Law School professor, with the first in-depth statistical study of how preferences actually affect black law students' academic performance, passage rates for the bar, and job prospects.  His stunning and copiously documented conclusion:  'Blacks are the victims of law school programs of affirmative action, not the beneficiaries.'

          "One reason is that racial admissions preferences 'significantly worsen blacks' individual chances of passing the bar by moving them up to schools at which they will frequently perform badly.'  Indeed, says Sander, so debilitating is the effect on the academic performance of black law students that ending preferences would increase the number who pass the bar and become lawyers."

Last Known Link:

END (1)  INTRO: Affirmative Action in Law Schools


Systemic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools

Nov. 2004

NEWS July 2006
N.A.S. Research:
Forced Diversity Has No Educational Benefit
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