The Boston University School of Law was recently ranked the 20th best law school in the country for black students in a report published by the nonprofit organization Lawyers of Color.
The report evaluated schools on 10 criteria such as juris doctorates awarded to black students, tuition, selectivity and the black population of each school’s surrounding area. Institutions with a black dean, such as LAW, received a bonus in the rankings.
LAW Dean Angela Onwuachi-Willig wrote in an email she was “delighted” to see BU’s placement in the rankings.
“We’re well-known among law schools for our commitment to teaching and mentoring students,” Onwuachi-Willig wrote. “We’re also very committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity, and it’s great to be recognized for our work in this regard, too.”
Jeremy Thompson, LAW’s assistant dean of communications and marketing, said this ranking was good news that was consistent with the school’s history.
“BU Law has been committed to openness and inclusion and access since it was founded in 1872,” Thompson said. “We are one of the few law schools in the country that upon first founding was open to all qualified applicants, regardless of race and gender and religious affiliations.”
Howard University, a historically black college located in Washington, D.C., was the top-ranked school for black law students in the 2019 report. Harvard University and Yale University had the only law schools in New England that ranked in the top 20 besides BU.
Onwuachi-Willig wrote LAW has an “impressive” list of black alumni — including Edward Brooke, the first African American popularly elected to the U.S. Senate, and Emanuel Hewlett, the only person to ever argue a criminal case at the U.S. Supreme Court.
BU is one of 29 law schools in the country with a black dean, Onwuachi-Willig wrote, and the school currently has six other black faculty members.
Three black women have been elected to positions on the LAW Student Government Association Council for next year, she noted — for president, vice president and secretary.
“That has to be a first of some kind,” Onwuachi-Willig wrote.
Nadia Lee, a second-year LAW student who is the SGA Council president-elect, said she was surprised but happy to hear about BU’s ranking in the top 20.
“When I came in, in 2017, only 10 students who were black or African American were in my class, and we don’t have that high percentage of faculty, so I was definitely surprised,” Lee said. “It made me excited that we were on the ranking because basically being on the ranking itself alerts the school to our standing and gives us a benchmark by which we can measure ourselves in the future.”
Thompson said LAW works to ensure its faculty, staff and student populations are reflective of a diverse community.
“We also have a lot of work to do what we can to attract and recruit students from all backgrounds to apply to BU Law,” he said, “and work with those applicants who were admitted to help them understand why BU Law can be a great place for them.”
Onwuachi-Willig noted one way to improve LAW’s ranking going forward would be to work on selling Boston as a city where black students want to study, despite an outdated reputation as a place that is hostile to black people.
“From the new DA, Rachael Rollins, to Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley to its existence as a majority-minority city and its growing black professional community,” she wrote, “Boston has lots to offer black law students.”
Onwuachi-Willig said this ranking is worth celebrating, but that it doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do.
“It’s definitely something to celebrate,” she wrote. “Being number 20 out of nearly 200 law schools is nothing to sneeze at, but until we are number one, there is always room for improvement.”