New study measures results of 30 years of affirmative action at U-M Law School

July 14, 1999

New study measures results of 30 years of affirmative action at Law School

ANN ARBOR—When a law school seeks a racially diverse student body, does it end up harming the supposed beneficiaries of affirmative action? Does it admit unqualified students who fail to succeed professionally? These concerns, often raised by critics of affirmative action, are refuted in an important new study of the experience of University of Michigan Law School graduates.

The study, titled “Doing Well and Doing Good: The Careers of Minority and White Graduates of the University of Michigan Law School, 1970-1996,” is published in the summer issue of the school’s alumni publication, Law Quadrangle Notes.

The authors of the article, U-M law professors David Chambers and Richard Lempert and social science researcher Terry Adams, surveyed all of the approximately 700 African Americans, 300 Latinos, and 60 Native Americans who graduated from the Law School during a 27-year period to learn how their careers have progressed. The authors compared the minority graduates’ achievements with those of a sample of over 900 white graduates from the same time period. The picture is one of exceptionally high success, with very few significant racial differences.

More than 97 percent of minority graduates passed the bar of at least one state. The average incomes of those who graduated in the 1970s and 1980s are well over $100,000 per year. As a group, the graduates of all 27 years are satisfied with their careers. They devote substantial time to volunteer community service.

The American Bar Association‘s Model Rules of Professional Conduct encourage lawyers to perform at least 50 hours of volunteer community service (“pro bono publico”) every year. Both minority and white graduates of Michigan in private practice average more than 50 hours. The minority graduates in fact average more than 100 hours per year.

In making admissions decisions, Michigan uses both quantitative factors

Chambers explains: “It is important to remember that Michigan is a highly selective school, and our study is only of people who were admitted. While on average there were differences by race in grades and test scores at the time of admission, the differences were relatively small in comparison to applicants at law schools across the nation. All admitted students, regardless of race, came to Michigan with powerful quantitative and non-quantitative evidence in their files that they would succeed professionally. And that is exactly what they have done.”

U-M Law Dean Jeffrey Lehman describes the study as highly significant. “We have long known that our admissions program works extremely well. But until this survey, the evidence was anecdotal, reflected in the experiences of individual graduates. Now we have powerful evidence that we are accomplishing our goal of preparing excellent attorneys who succeed in their careers and give back generously to the larger society.”

For more information or to receive a copy of the article, please contact Nancy Marshall, media relations/information officer, University of Michigan Law School,

U-M News and Information Services
University of Michigan

Law SchoolDavid ChambersAmerican Bar Associationadmissions decisionsJeffrey LehmanU-M News and Information ServicesUniversity of Michigan