Why black judges matter
Efforts to diversify the ranks of the legal profession have been on-going over the last decade in the American Bar Association, as well as state bars. Beginning with 2006-07 President Irene Bahr, the Illinois State Bar Association has had robust diversity initiatives. Many initiatives focus on the “pipeline problem,” i.e., too few minorities obtaining the necessary preparation at the high school and college levels to become lawyers. Success has been elusive.
That's because minorities have insufficient access to, and progression, within the legal profession. Graduating from law school, passing the bar, and obtaining significant experience all are prerequisites to a judicial nomination. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported in 2010 that more black women than black men went to law school.
After law school and bar admission, however, there are further leaks from the pipeline. Black men rarely make Big Law partnership, traditionally a rich pool for judicial candidates. (Even fewer minority women do.) According to the 2015 National Association of Women Lawyers Survey, lawyers of color constitute only 8% of law firm equity partners, and the progress of minorities becoming partners has been stagnant for years. Clearly management needs to expend more effort to retain and promote minorities after they are hired.