In a recent article for the Florida Justice Association (FJA), Attorney Natasha Cortes penned a piece on the gross lack of diversity within the legal profession.
As Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen’s only Latina partner, Attorney Cortes has firsthand experience with the difficulties minorities face when trying to enter the legal sphere, find their footing, and thrive.
The problem starts when seeking admittance to law school. For instance, the American Bar Association (ABA) won’t accredit law schools that admit students with an LSAT score less than 143, while the average score among African Americans is 142. This random minimum requirement disproportionately impacts African Americans striving to become lawyers.
“History also shows that LSAT scores can’t predict whether or not a student will pass the bar exam or find success as a lawyer,” Attorney Cortes wrote.
The bar exam minimum score requirement could also use improvement, however. Attorney Cortes pointed out how it isn’t uniform among states, which then disproportionately affects minorities in states where the minimum is higher.
Even when minorities pass the bar, getting their foot in the door of a law firm is a whole other hurdle. Moving up in a law firm’s ranks tends to be more difficult for minorities than it is for their white counterparts. As Attorney Cortes explained, “The 2020 ABA’s Diversity Survey revealed that 90 percent of law firm leaders were white.”
After painting a clear picture of how lacking the legal profession is in diversity, Attorney Cortes highlights how a real commitment to fixing this problem can help law firms better serve their clients.
“There are many benefits that come with diversifying a firm due to the positive attributes minorities possess,” Attorney Cortes stated. “The ABA explains that diversity will lead to better quality work, a reduction of costs, improving the firm’s reputation and departmental operations, to name a few. … When law firms choose to diversify their team, they have a positive impact on the firm, legal system and society as a whole.”
So how can we get there? How can we begin to change the homogeneous legal landscape?
Attorney Cortes lays out detailed solutions in her piece for the FJA. A few answers include putting mentorships between partners and minority associates in place, implementing systems to ensure law firms hire and support minority attorneys, and fighting back against racist beliefs to attack the challenges minorities face. Through these changes, law firms and their clients can start to reap the many benefits of diversity.
“As a Latina lawyer myself, I find it rewarding when I am given the opportunity to use my bilingual and multicultural background to form a deeper connection with the clients I am privileged to represent,” Attorney Cortes said. “The ability to communicate directly with a client in their native language is an invaluable asset that undoubtedly affords me the ability to provide better representation and a level of credibility that is otherwise difficult to achieve.”
Read Attorney Cortes’ piece, “Diversity in Law Firms - The Continuing Problem of Minority Underrepresentation,” in the January/February 2022 issue of the FJA Journal here.
About the Author
Attorney Natasha Cortes is a senior partner at Grossman Roth Yaffa Cohen, a top-rated law firm serving injured and wronged South Florida residents. She has handled over a hundred multimillion-dollar cases, resulting in the recovery of more than $150 million for clients. Super Lawyers®, Lawdragon, The Wall Street Journal, and Best Lawyers®, among others, have recognized Attorney Cortes for her skillful legal representation.