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Affirmative Action Not Needed If ABA Gave
Minority Law School Applicants Fair Chance

Sherwood Ross
January 13, 2009
American Chronicle
Rather than change "elitist" law school admission policies to give minorities a fair chance to enroll, the American Bar Assn.(ABA) instead imposes affirmative action that allows in many fewer minority students, two law school educational reformers say. They say if the ABA stopped insisting that law schools give the culturally biased Law School Admission Test (LSAT), affirmative action wouldn't be necessary.

The ABA accredits about 200, or nearly all, of the nation's law schools and has propagandized most state Supreme courts into allowing only graduates of ABA schools to take the bar exam (which even minorities justices seem to go along with, for reasons unfathomable to persons who think they should be trying to insure their people are treated fairly). It therefore has great influence over law schools´ admission policies. Accordingly, it must be held responsible as the architect for the low percentages of African-American (6-7%) and Hispanic-American (3-4%) students now studying law, critics say.

"From at least 1960 onward, more and more law schools were becoming elitist due to demands of the accreditors for high LSAT scores" on the part of applicants, write Lawrence Velvel and Kurt Olson, dean and assistant professor respectively, at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. The effect of these demands "for ever higher LSAT scores had, and continues to have, a prominent adverse effect on minority admissions."

"In consequence," the law school officials charge, "the accreditors sought to overcome this by requiring all schools to engage in affirmative action, starting with an ´interpretation´ of the ABA Standards that became effective in 1981."

Velvel and Olson write in their new book, "The Gathering Peasants´ Revolt In American Legal Education"(Doukathsan), the use of affirmative action did improve minority enrollment "somewhat" "but even 25 years after the ABA enacted its interpretation requiring affirmative action, the situation was unsatisfactory, not to mention the exclusion of lower income persons generally."

When President George W. Bush´s Department of Education(DOE) tried to end affirmative action in law school admissions, it did so by putting off from 2005 to 2006 ABA´s petition that DOE renew its status as its sole law school accreditor.

And when the ABA proposed a new affirmative action rule in an effort to mollify DOE, it provoked "a firestorm of opposition because it was obvious to many that the ill considered, transparently political response to DOE would injure minorities and the relatively few schools that were seriously attempting to serve them," Velvel and Olson write.

The complaints over the proposed affirmative action change spilled over into many other aspects of ABA ´s controversial accreditation policies. Since the ABA "is considered an ally of the Democratic Party," the co-authors write, "the gathering peasants´ revolt (against the ABA ´s elitist policies) could very well come to nought" when the Democrats return to power.

Velvel and Olson note the law today is still the least integrated of all the professions, a fact that even the ABA ´s own Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession has recognized.

Founded in 1988, the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is purposefully dedicated to providing a quality, affordable education for minorities, immigrants, mid-career individuals, and students from low- and middle-income backgrounds who would not otherwise be able to afford a legal education. The school is accredited by the New England Association of Schools & Colleges and its tuition is about half that charged by most law schools.


Cofounder Velvel has been honored for his work in law school educational reform by the National Law Journal and the National Jurist magazines. The latter cited him as one of the leading reformers in legal education today. For further information contact Sherwood Ross, media consultant to Massachusetts School of Law at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com.