By LYNN LOFTON
With a total enrollment of 412 and one third of those students of color, the University of Mississippi School of Law is dedicated to becoming more diversified and is pleased with a recent honor confirming that policy. It has been named a Best Regional Law School for Black Students in the third edition of the Black Student’s Guide to Law Schools & Firms, published by Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Lawyers of Color.
“I believe this is the first time the University of Mississippi School of Law has earned this designation from Lawyers of Color, and we are honored,” Dean Susan Duncan said. “In everything we do, we strive to promote diversity and inclusion. UM Law is dedicated to providing an educational environment that is more representative of the world in which we live.
“It is important for the legal field to be representative of our increasingly diverse society, and we work diligently to make UM Law a welcoming place for all students. More than a third of the incoming law school class of 2022 are students of color, and more than half of that same class are women. We are extremely proud to have so many diverse students, all of whom bring their own unique experiences to the classroom, enriching the legal education experience for all students.”
Law schools were evaluated based on 10 criteria that included the school’s bar passage rate and the percentage of jobs law students received that required a Juris Doctor. A bonus was calculated for law schools with black deans, of which there are a record 29. At a quarter of law schools, more than 10 percent of faculty members are black.
“One of our most important goals each admissions cycle is to recruit and admit an increasingly diverse student body. We reach out through various channels to diverse student groups to welcome them and provide opportunities to visit us, sit in on classes, meet faculty, talk with current students, and experience our environment,” said Bette Bradley, assistant dean for admissions.
“We also select student ambassadors who share the core value of our mission regarding diversity, inclusion, and outreach in order to create an inclusive environment for our prospective students.”
Some specific examples of outreach to diverse students last year included: recruiting visits to all Mississippi historical black colleges and universities (HBCU) as well as HBCUs in Alabama, Tennessee, and Arkansas; the development of pipeline initiatives with Tougaloo and Jackson State University; a virtual Law Preview Day for students who couldn’t travel to the event; work with the Law School’s Diversity Council to recruit diverse students; nominating two students to attend the CLEO Summer Pre-Law Institute; and work with Black Law Student Association to reach out to prospective students.
“The University of Mississippi School of Law has several law student organizations, including the Constance Slaughter Harvey Chapter of the Black Law Student Association, Latinx Law Student Association, Law Association for Women, OUTlaw, Native American Law Students Association, Military Justice Society, and PALS (Parents Attending Law School),” Macey Edmondson, assistant dean for student affairs, said.
Besides overall scoring, a greater weight was given to the percentage of J.D. degrees a law school awarded to black law graduates and the amount of resident tuition, which could not exceed $35,000. Founded in 2008, Lawyers of Color is a nonprofit organization with the mission of promoting diversity in the legal profession and advancing equality in marginalized communities. Through publications, including the annual guide, the organization assists prospective and new lawyers in educational and career choices.
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