MORGANTOWN -- Minorities are seriously underrepresented in the legal profession, and one West Virginia University law student is fighting for change.
Candice Isaac, a second-year student at the WVU School of Law, is on the executive board of the National Black Law Students Association. And one of Isaac’s jobs is to build links between minority students and practicing minority attorneys with allies across the profession.
“We are creating a space to more formalize mentoring between students and practicing attorneys,” Isaac told The West Virginia Record.
It is estimated only 5 percent of lawyers in the United States are African-American while just over 4 percent are Hispanic. Those numbers have changed little in the last decade, according to the American Bar Association.
Candice Isaac nblsa.org
However, minority enrollment in law schools was 28.5 percent in the academic year 2013-2104, the ABA found in a study published last year. In a separate study, the association found that only 3 percent of lawyers in large firms are African-American, and that the black demographic makes up only 1.9 percent of partners.
Minority lawyers are needed more than ever, particularly in the area of criminal justice where a “large number of those imprisoned are not represented by people that look like them” said Isaac, the NBLSA’s director of alumni affairs and development.
And it is not just defense attorneys. Also important is to have more minority prosecutors, Isaac said.
This view is echoed by former National Black Prosecutors Association President Bruce Brown, who told the Guardian newspaper: “When you have African-Americans in the room making decisions, challenging decisions, folks are forced to look at the motives behind what they’re doing. It’s not until all those motives are questioned that we make sure that our system is working, not only effectively, but also efficiently and fairly for everyone involved.”
One of Isaac’s other responsibilities is to help start and maintain the association’s education task force, made up of top educators and law school deans. It maintains a presence on social media where law students and educators can connect.
“My focus is alumni and recent graduates, to reach out ask them if they want the opportunity to give back,” Isaac said.
This can include scholarships, tips on how to succeed and advice on maintaining a work/life balance, she added.
She also collates information gathered to better help students, many from diverse backgrounds with totally different experiences,
She wants to reach out to all attorneys, not just minorities, to develop allies across the profession.
“Anyone who is willing to assist,” Issac said. “It does not matter what color or creed.”