Increasing Diversity of Law School Graduates Not Reflected Among Judicial Clerks

NALP Bulletin, September 2014

Each year several thousand law school graduates obtain judicial clerkships. But even as the percentage of minority graduates overall has increased from about 14% in 1993 to over 25% in 2013, minority representation among judicial clerks has not shown similar growth. In fact the overall representation of minorities among judicial clerks has increased only marginally since the mid-1990s and has essentially flat-lined over the past ten years. Thus in 2013 non-minority white graduates obtained 82.7% of clerkships; in 2003 and 2005 the figure was just over 83%. It was down to 81.6% in 2007 before jumping to 83.9% in 2009, as the number of clerkships dropped by over 500.

In general, 2007 represents a high-water mark in terms of diversity among graduates taking judicial clerkships, with each diverse group reaching a high that year and then dropping back in 2009. (The exception was among Hispanics who maintained their share in 2009.) As a result, representation of Asians and Hispanics among judicial clerks as a whole is largely unchanged since 2003, and it has declined somewhat for Blacks/African-Americans. Over the longer span, moreover, since 1993, only Asian and Hispanic graduates have measurably increased their representation among judicial clerks.

This pattern is generally replicated for federal and state clerkships, with a high point reached in 2007. Among federal clerkships, there was very little change in the presence of Asians and Hispanics from 2003 to 2013. Black/African-American graduates have made some small gains in recent years compared with 2013. State clerkships have become less diverse in the past ten years. Over the longer span from 1993 to 2013, gains among Asian graduates have been by far the largest, with representation of Blacks/African-Americans and Hispanics among federal and state clerkships moving by less than one-half of a percentage point (and not always up).

Local clerkships are far less numerous than either federal or state clerkships. In 2013 (and in 2012) this group became considerably more diverse; however, the reasons for this change, or any of the changes for that matter, cannot be determined from the data collected.


Racial/Ethnic Diversity Among Judicial Clerks: A Twenty-Year Profile

  1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 2009 2011 2013
All Clerks
Native American 0.2% 0.5% 0.2% 0.5% 0.4% 0.6% 0.4% 0.5% 0.3% 0.4% 0.2%
Asian/Pacific Islander 3.6 5.3 5.0 5.3 5.6 6.1 6.1 6.2 5.6 5.7 6.0
African-American 5.1 5.8 5.6 5.8 6.5 5.7 6.0 6.7 5.4 5.1 5.4
Hispanic 1.9 2.8 3.3 3.6 3.5 3.0 3.5 3.7 3.7 3.4 3.1
White 88.5 85.6 85.9 84.9 83.4 84.2 83.1 81.6 83.9 83.6 82.7
Multi-racial 0.5 0.4 0.8 1.3 1.2 1.8 2.6
# of clerks 2,943 3,115 3,245 3,422 3,471 3,277 3,458 3,395 2,843 3,030 3,124
Federal Clerks
Native American 0.2 0.3 0.2 0.4 0.3 0.4 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.3 0.3
Asian/Pacific Islander 3.7 6.4 5.9 6.2 7.0 6.8 7.3 7.0 5.8 6.5 6.9
African-American 4.8 5.5 4.9 5.3 4.3 4.0 4.9 6.2 3.5 4.9 4.5
Hispanic 2.2 3.4 3.7 4.3 2.7 2.9 4.3 3.3 3.6 2.9 3.0
White 89.2 84.3 85.4 83.7 85.4 85.4 82.6 81.7 86.1 83.6 82.9
Multi-racial 0.2 0.5 0.7 1.6 0.9 1.9 2.4
# of clerks 1,228 1,263 1,250 1,338 1,336 1,263 1,267 1,237 1,021 1,110 1,141
State Clerks
Native American 0.3 0.5 0.4 0.6 0.5 0.6 0.4 0.7 0.3 0.4 0.2
Asian/Pacific Islander 3.6 4.5 4.2 4.5 4.4 5.8 5.7 5.8 5.6 5.2 5.4
African-American 4.7 5.4 5.5 5.7 7.9 7.0 6.5 7.3 6.2 5.1 5.1
Hispanic 2.7 2.1 3.2 3.2 4.0 3.5 3.2 3.8 4.0 3.8 3.1
White 88.8 87.5 86.7 86.1 82.4 82.6 83.4 81.4 82.4 83.6 83.6
Multi-racial 0.7 0.5 0.8 1.1 1.6 2.0 2.6
# of clerks 1,460 1,655 1,702 1,775 1,773 1,680 1,792 1,797 1,506 1,636 1,682
Local Clerks
Native American 0.0 1.2 0.0 0.0 0.6 0.7 0.6 0.9 0.4 0.4 0.0
Asian/Pacific Islander 2.8 5.8 4.7 4.8 5.3 4.2 4.4 4.9 4.9 4.9 5.6
African-American 10.4 9.8 9.4 8.6 7.5 5.5 6.4 4.6 7.3 5.6 9.8
Hispanic 2.9 4.6 2.5 2.2 3.4 1.0 2.9 5.2 2.8 2.6 3.8
White 84.3 78.6 83.5 84.4 82.6 88.6 84.5 83.0 84.6 85.8 78.4
Multi-racial 0.6 0.0 1.2 1.4 0.0 0.7 2.4
# of clerks 178 173 278 269 321 307 343 348 286 267 287

All figures exclude graduates for whom race or ethnicity was not reported. The Asian/Pacific Islander category includes East Indian/Pakistani and Native Hawaiian graduates. The option of reporting more than one race/ethnicity was introduced in 2001.

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