Accessing Quality?: Legal Education and the Diversity Challenge

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Working Paper

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What is a good legal education? This is a question that both blesses and blights us all - it blesses us because it forces us to keep on our toes and should constantly makes us challenge what we are doing and what we take for granted, it blights us because there is no likely consensus on what it might mean and tends to pull us apart rather than bring us together. In addressing this perennially perplexing question, I want to ask how we might go about answering it (or, at least, framing the issues) when it comes to dealing with matters of race and racial diversity in student admissions. The general perception of the problem is that, while greater diversity in the student population is to be encouraged, it must not occur at the price of lower standards in the delivery of legal education. For me, this is precisely the kind of dichotomous thinking that must be done away with. It is not a choice between broadening access and preserving quality - access is a dimension of quality, they go together, not pull apart. In short, I want to take a controversial and unconventional line that recommends that law schools, if they are to provide a good legal education, must embrace affirmative action in their admission practices. It is my contention that there is no connection between broadening access and diluting standards. On the contrary, on the view of a good legal education that I propose, greater ethnic diversity will enhance the quality of legal education delivered and received.

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