NY Bar Associations Recommend Race-Neutral Methods to Promote Diversity After SCOTUS Ruling

New York bar associations advise law firms and schools to adopt race-neutral methods to promote diversity in admissions following the Supreme Court's affirmative action ruling. The associations' recommendations include evaluating race through non-racial goals and considering factors like socioeconomic status and geographic location.

Bijay Laxmi
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NY Bar Associations Recommend Race-Neutral Methods to Promote Diversity After SCOTUS Ruling

NY Bar Associations Recommend Race-Neutral Methods to Promote Diversity After SCOTUS Ruling

In the wake of the Supreme Court's landmark decision overturning affirmative action, leading New York bar associations are advising law firms and schools to adoptrace-neutral methodsto continue promoting diversity in admissions. The American Bar Association (ABA), New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), and New York City Bar Association (NYCBA) have released recommendations aimed at navigating the new legal landscape while still advancing inclusion goals.

Why this matters: The Supreme Court's ruling on affirmative action has significant implications for diversity and inclusion in higher education and the legal profession, and the bar associations' recommendations could shape the future of admissions policies and diversity initiatives. As the legal landscape continues to evolve, the strategies employed by law schools and firms will have a lasting impact on the representation of underrepresented groups in these fields.

The bar associations' guidance comes after the Supreme Court's ruling in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which found the use of race-based affirmative action in university admissions unconstitutional. However, the decision did not categorically ban all forms of affirmative action. The NYSBA Task Force on Advancing Diversity released a 93-page report outlining strategies for law schools and firms to implement racial preferences using methods that are race-neutral in theory but race-conscious in practice.

The report advises law schools to continue granting admissions preferences to black and Hispanic applicants by evaluating race through "a non-racial goal or value being pursued by the university." It also suggests documenting race for "research and evaluation purposes" and considering factors such as low socioeconomic status, first-generation immigrant status, geographic location, or percentage plans. Ending early admission policies and removing standardized testing measures like the LSAT are also recommended.

For law firms, the bar associations assert that the Supreme Court's decision only applies to university admissions, not employment. They advise firms to continue using affirmative action in hiring and diversity initiatives. The report highlights race-neutral pipeline programs developed by the bar associations to help individuals from low and middle-income families enter the legal profession.

Critics argue that the recommended strategies are merely attempts to circumvent the Court's ruling. "Race-based scholarships and corporate diversity fellowships are merely affirmative action by another name," the report states. In contrast, it asserts that pipeline programs offering academic support, test prep, mentoring, and career development "prepare marginalized students to go toe-to-toe with their better-resourced peers" and "provide these students with a sense of agency and accountability over their futures."

The New York bar associations' recommendations reflect ongoing efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession and higher education in the post-affirmative action era. While the Supreme Court's decision has changed the landscape, these influential organizations are seeking alternative paths to advance their goals within the new legal framework. Thelong-term impactsof these strategies on diversity outcomes remain to be seen as law schools, firms, and universities navigate the evolving environment.