By Nayelly Dominguez • May 05, 2019•Law School, Other Law School Issues
Diversity, Inclusion, and Representation are words that have a strong presence in the legal community. With a greater push from clients for teams that reflect the diversity of the greater world we live in and a realization that the number of attorneys from under represented backgrounds is extremely disproportionate to the amount of white men from the good ole’ boys club, the push for diversity efforts in law school recruitment has been a significant one. While many law schools have increased the enrollment of students from underrepresented backgrounds, they have not gotten past using ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusiveness’ as buzzwords for recruitment and truly retain those students, something which we as law students must speak up and fight for.
This past year I was selected as the only Practice Pro Diversity Scholar from my law school, being one of fifty-two 1L’s across the nation selected for the program. Yet, my school did not provide the support I needed for me to attend the student leadership conference in Houston that was a requirement to participate in this program and receive the full benefits of my achievement. I originally had a mid-term exam scheduled on that day, and after receiving permission from my professor and following the proper protocol to reschedule exams, my school denied my petition. I provided documentation stating it was mandatory for me to attend the conference as well as written confirmation from my professor approving of me taking the exam later, yet my school would not approve of me moving my exam one day.
My school prides itself in recruiting diverse talent and playing a role in changing the current image of the legal field, but how good is that commitment to diversity if we do not sustain and prepare this diverse talent by offering them support in pursuing opportunities that prepare students to bridge the gap? With this very question I challenged my school’s decision that would have cost me this amazing opportunity that I worked hard to earn. I was particularly frustrated because I had seen exams moved for other students for various reasons, yet pursuing this opportunity for my development did not seem like a good enough reason for my administration.
As a Mexican-American woman who is a first-generation American that is also a first-generation high school and college graduate I have never taken “no” lightly, and I am not going to start now. After appealing the decision twice, sending well-crafted emails to the office of career services, my academic advisor, and my professor, speaking to two diversity council representatives and the office of student affairs, three days before the conference I finally received the approval.
No journey is easy, yet it should not have been this difficult. This is just one of the many examples of ways by which law schools are not properly serving all of the students that it recruits. We are not asking for handouts, but we are asking for equity and fairness. Both law school administrations and law students have to come together and work towards making law schools inclusive environments for all the students it recruits. We shouldn’t just recruit people from diverse backgrounds to check a box and meet a quota. We should ensure that we retain those students by offering them equal opportunities to succeed as those from slightly more privileged backgrounds.
After this incident I have been more vocal about fighting for opportunities for all students at my school. I am currently spearheading the creation of a new Women of Color Law Students Association which we hope will provide the support that many women of color search for at my school.
I, along with all of my classmates in law school, have worked hard to get to where I am and will do everything in my power that I have access to as many opportunities I can, but law school administrations need to also step up their game and work with the students, too.