Rick Sander, guest-blogging at the excellent Empirical Legal Studies, has more on this subject. His analysis ties to his research on how race preferences may in many situations hurt their beneficiaries, by placing them in schools where they end up near the bottom of the class; but it goes considerably beyond that. Here's an excerpt from one post about the current racial mismatch in bar performance.
BPS [Bar Passage Study] (1994 era) 2004 Era (my estimates) Whites Blacks Whites Blacks % of entering law students
92% 81% 90% 78% % of graduates
who take the bar
94% 93% 94% 93% % of bar takers
who pass on first attempt
91% 61% 78% 47% % of bar takers
who ultimately pass
96.5% 78% 90% 65% % of entering law students
who graduate and pass bar
on first attempt
78.7% 45.1% 66% 34% % of entering law students
who ultimately become lawyers
82.7% 57.1% 76% 47%
Clearly, both whites and blacks are having worse outcomes today than in the BPS --- mostly because of the decline in bar passage rates. But what about relative outcomes? In one sense, blacks are doing relatively better; the absolute declines for blacks and whites on first-time bar passage are similar, so the ratio of black-to-white failure rates has fallen from around four to around three.
On the other hand, relative chances of success for blacks have fallen much more sharply than for whites. The proportion of blacks graduating and passing the bar on the first attempt has fallen something like one-fourth ((45.1-34)/45.1) and the proportion of the black cohort becoming lawyers has fallen something more than one-sixth ((57.1-47)/57.1); the comparable declines for whites are one-sixth and one-twelfth.
These are seat-of-the-pants estimates, based on limited available data. But they leave no doubt that the mere passage of time has not cured the problem of racial disparities in legal education. The need to understand the causes of those disparities is more urgent than ever.
For links to all of Rick's posts, see the last (seventh) in the series.