What Is The Purpose Of The Law School Diversity Statement?
Diversity. Like a Rorschach test, the term means different things to different people. For some, diversity conjures up images of race, nationality, religion, gender, economic status, and even sexual orientation. For others, diversity is a red herring, a weapon used to silence anyone who dares challenge a politically correct orthodoxy.
So, it’s no surprise that the diversity statement confuses some law school applicants. Does diversity mean that they studied John Locke, the Quran, and the Little Red Book? Have you gained a diverse perspective by volunteering in Brownsville or spending a semester abroad? In other words, are admissions teams looking for candidates who’ve spent their lives embracing various ethnicities and cultures? If not, does a diversity statement hurt your chances?
Not necessarily. In a recent post on the Pen and Chisel Blog, diversity is defined more clearly. Before getting into that, let’s dispel two misconceptions. First, a diversity statement is generally optional in an application. Basically, it is another opportunity to show how your background could enrich the overall student body. Second, diversity is about more than your cultural upbringing or the obstacles you overcame. These experiences might have shaped your identity, but they don’t explain what your viewpoint is – and how it’ll shape what you ultimately plan to do.
As Pen and Chisel observes, a high “LSAT score and GPA can show the admissions committee your intelligence and ability to analyze information logically, and that a well-written personal statement can help show them your reasons for aspiring to become a lawyer.” However, law schools are looking for something more: “A host of different points of view, personal priorities, and cultural, social, or economic experiences.” And it’s not so they can conduct some grand sociological experiment. Instead, the class make-up is designed to expose the realities of practicing law:
“A heterogeneous student body will challenge each others’ assumptions, spark lively debates, and expand each others’ understanding of situations outside their experience. Overall, this interaction with a varied group of peers will help build lawyers who can see key issues from multiple points of view, predict and formulate excellent arguments and counter-arguments, and grasp the finer points of a wide variety of future clients’ needs.”
Bottom line: It prepares students to better understand and represent clients, who’ll come from all walks of life. And that’s why a diversity statement must show how applicants’ backgrounds will help them buck conventional wisdom and raise the level of classroom discussion. Diversity doesn’t mean a candidate adopts particular views or mores, just that she can comprehend, respect, and even empathize with them.
One more point: Diversity statements are writing exercises. A clear and brief addendum will make two points. First, it reinforces that applicants can write like lawyers. Second, it demonstrates that they can succinctly boil their arguments down to the key points. In other words, the delivery – as much as the content – can help (or hobble) a candidacy.
Source: Pen and Chisel