In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Immigrant Lawyers and the Changing Face of the U.S. Legal Profession
  • Ethan Michelson (bio)

Lazarus-Black and Globokar examine the work both of foreign applicants to two LL.M. programs and of the law school administrators and faculty who decide “Who’s In [and] Who’s Out.”1 The LL.M. admissions process is an increasingly important determinant of the overall volume and composition of law school enrollments. At stake are the futures not only of individual applicants, but also of law schools. In this Comment, I extend Lazarus-Black and Globokar’s analysis further downstream to consider the stakes for the U.S. legal profession as a whole. Gatekeepers to LL.M. programs are doing far more than determining individual fates and collectively shaping the future of U.S. legal education. I will demonstrate in this Comment that their work helps shape—in concrete, measurable ways—the demographic composition of the U.S. legal profession. In so doing, I will contribute to the emerging field of legal demography, which refers to the study of lawyers through the analysis of data not collected for this specific purpose.2

Carole Silver portrays LL.M. programs as engines propelling the global diffusion of legal practice in all directions.3 LL.M. graduates use [End Page 105] their unique boundary-spanning legal, cultural, and linguistic skills to serve as international legal interlocutors. Whether they return to their home countries or stay in the United States, LL.M. graduates serve as “agents of globalization in law.”4 My goal in this Comment is to show that immigrant lawyers, many of whom earned LL.M. degrees, are also agents of gender, racial, and ethnic diversity. As we will see, they are literally and figuratively changing the face of the U.S. legal profession.

Silver estimates an annual enrollment of at least 4,000 foreign students in U.S. LL.M. programs.5 She also estimates that about 18 percent of foreign LL.M. students stay in the United States after graduating.6 Combining these two estimates implies that approximately 720 immigrants enter the U.S. legal profession each year via LL.M. programs (which feed into JD programs and allow students to take the New York and California bar examinations). To be sure, LL.M. programs are not the only gateway into the U.S. legal profession. Because the data I analyze contain no information about U.S. legal education, my analytical scrutiny in this Comment extends to all foreign-born lawyers, whom I define as practicing lawyers who were born outside of the United States. I also analyze a subset of these foreign-born lawyers: adult-immigrant lawyers, whom I define as practicing lawyers who first entered the United States at the age of twenty-two or older. Although LL.M. recipients undoubtedly account for a sizeable proportion of the immigrant lawyers I analyzed, I am unable to estimate the mix of JD, LL.M., and other degree holders in this population.7

Data from the decennial census “long form” and the American Community Survey (ACS) contain information on over 100,000 lawyers [End Page 106] in the thirteen years spanning 2000–2012.8 These data were collected from nationally representative samples of the total U.S. population: 5% in 2000, 0.43% in 2001, 0.38% in 2002, 0.42% in 2003 and 2004, and 1% annually between 2005 and 2012. The data contain occupational codes sufficiently detailed to identify “lawyers, and judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers.” To exclude nonpracticing lawyers and nonlawyers from this category, I limit the scope of the analysis to individuals who were employed and working in the “legal services” industry. Altogether, across all samples in this thirteen-year period, 103,167 individuals fit this definition of “lawyer.” Since each annual sample was constructed independently, we have no way of knowing how many, if any, of these individuals were surveyed more than once. Applying population weights, these 103,167 lawyers represent an estimated average annual population of 695,024 over the 2000–2012 time period.

Unless foreign-born and adult-immigrant lawyers are predominantly white European men, or unless they are exceedingly few in number, they are...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 105-111
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.