Law is a popular field many people in the United States want to get into after graduating from college and passing the bar. These ambitious people have a passion for facing a situation and figuring out a way to settle. There are many types of situations a lawyer may be faced with from criminal trials to personal injury cases. And although 4% to 5% of all personal injury cases go to trial in the United States while the rest are settled out of court, lawyers are a necessary presence.
Law an exciting field for many people in the United States to be a part of. However, there aren’t many Latino people among those getting into the legal field.
According to NBC News, Latinos feel discouraged by the high costs, academic requirements, and long processes that come with becoming a lawyer. They often feel as if they can’t be a lawyer at all. Because of these concerns, legal experts say the lack of Latino attorneys will hurt the advancement of the Hispanic community in the future.
The Hispanic National Bar Association, HNBA, says Hispanic people only account for about 4% of the lawyer population in the United States. For Latinas, that number is drastically smaller. Only 2% of Latinas comprise the U.S. lawyer population.
Erica V. Mason, President of the HNBA spoke to NBC Latino regarding this statistic.
“It is a huge problem, and it has been a problem for a long time,” Mason said. “Every single aspect of society is impacted in meaningful ways by attorneys, including lawmakers, politicians, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and in-house corporate attorneys who make policies that companies follow.”
When you break it down, the number of Latinos in each specific law area is even smaller. In terms of law firm partners, Hispanics only make up about 1.8% of that group. Only 4.5% of Hispanic people hold state and federal judicial positions.
Mason told NBC Latino that she thinks the legal field has an issue with its image. She says that people think lawyers are cheaters and liars. She doesn’t think that people believe lawyers are actually there to help the greater good. Mason believes that with the negative connotation behind being a lawyer and without a large number of Latino’s involved in the field, it’s hard for Latinos to want to get involved.
“Plus, with so few of us, many young Latinos have never met a Latino lawyer,” Mason said. “So how could they want to be one?”
Jennifer Rosato Perea, Dean of DePaul University College of Law, believes that law schools should specifically target Latinos as young as middle school-age to get them interested in the field.
“We need to help young Latinos see law school as a choice and then help them get there,” Rosato Perea said. “Legal training is the best type of training you can have to succeed in the world as a problem solver and we need to ensure that more young Latinos know that.”
Since the cost of law school is a big fear for many Latinos, there are ways that they can have that price cut significantly. There are many scholarships, grants, and other financial assistance options available to those prospective Latino students. In addition to the financial help, the Latina Lawyers Bar Association offers numerous programs and events to help Latino students navigate their way through law school. They also help them practice interview skills and get information on internships.
Even though Mason is aware that many Latino people are skeptical about becoming a lawyer, she remains optimistic about the future increase of Latino lawyers.
“I have to be optimistic; we can’t give up,” Mason said. “It is a big issue, and our work starts with getting our message out. This problem exists – and we all have a role in fixing it.”