AALS Handbook: Statement of Good Practices
Diversity, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
The purpose of the Association of American Law Schools, as stated in the first article of its bylaws, is “the improvement of the legal profession through legal education.” Toward this end, one requirement of the bylaws is that member schools “seek to have a faculty, staff and student body which are diverse with respect to race, color, and sex.”
AALS’ commitment to equality of opportunity and diversity reflects the judgment of the member schools that these are core values in legal education and in the legal profession. The objective reaches beyond simply ensuring access to all who are qualified. It seeks to increase the number of persons from underrepresented groups in law schools, in the legal profession and in the judiciary in order to enhance the perception of fairness in the legal system, to secure legal services to all sectors of society, and to provide role models for young people.
Diversity means more, however, than expanding access to those historically underrepresented in and underserved by legal education and the legal profession. Its objective is also to create an educational community—and ultimately a profession—that incorporates the different perspectives necessary to a more comprehensive understanding of the law and its impact on society; and to assure vigorous intellectual interchanges essential for professional development. It also implies changing the culture of educational institutions—making learning, the curriculum, and pedagogy more responsive to the needs of a changing student population and a changing world. It presumes an obligation to create a greater sense of belonging, of connectedness, and of place for all members of the educational community.
In an increasingly multicultural nation with a global reach, a commitment to diversity—to broadening the boundaries of inclusiveness of American institutions—is economically necessary, morally imperative, and constitutionally legitimate. In higher education, diversity is also vital to intellectual pursuits. Different backgrounds affect the way people see the world. These differences enrich learning, scholarship, public service, and institutional governance. The voices from diverse cultures bring to the classroom important and different perspectives.
Although there has been great progress in recent decades in respect to the number of women and members of minority groups in American law schools, legal education still has a long road to travel to produce a truly diverse profession prepared to meet the needs of American society. The challenge is thus to develop an educational community—and ultimately an America—where all of us can work together and learn from each other in a climate of mutual trust.
Adopted by the Executive Committee, November 1995
Amended July 12, 2017