I think AA programs were a completely reasonable solution to a very real problem in the 60s and 70s–how to quickly move minorities into professional fields that they had been barred from. I’ve long thought that AA programs should be phased out, and I do agree that we should study whether AA programs are helping or not. To that end, I think data from schools and the bar should be available for study.
I think there’s significant economic pressure currently on the top law firms to have diverse staff, so even if eliminating AA meant there were less minorities at the top law schools, my guess is the top law firms will go to second-tier schools in order to diversify. I’m unclear if the same type of pressure exists at smaller law firms, but if it doesn’t, perhaps a better solution is to make it easier to get a Small Business Administration loan to start businesses like law firms.
The article posted by the OP, however, has several flaws, I think. As pointed out, it is merely conjecture. Furthermore, the article seems to assume law school serves as preparation for the bar exam. Most people take a special class after law school in order to take the bar, and any analysis as to pass rates is going to have to include data on whether the people who failed took the special class. It could very well be that minorities are faililng the bar at higher rates because they aren’t taking this special class at the same rates as non-minorities–in which case the whole question would shift to the issue of why minorities don’t take the special class.
Furthermore, the article criticizes the top tier law schools for focusing too much on theoretical frameworks. As already pointed out, most schools have pretty much the same curriiculum. Furthere, there are 6 core subjects on the bar exam, and those are covered in the first year of law school. By the time a law sudent sits for the bar, 2 years will have passed since taking the core subjects. I really don’t see what difference a pratical approach would make to pass rates. After two years, the law will have changed, and a number of practical things will need to be relearned anyway for the bar.
Additionally, most law students I know simply didn’t take classes for all the subjects on the bar by the time they finished law school. I tried, and I still wasn’t able to take 2 classes because of scheduling conflicts. If you don’t take the class, then whether the curriculum is practical or theoretical is irrelevant.
As I stated earlier, the issue should definitely be studied. But, like most things in real life, my guess is that the data is not going to point to any clear cut solutions. What if the data says that AA helps Latinos or Native Americans? Then what are we supposed to do?
Plan B, I have to say that when I read stuff like that proteinwisdom link, I tune out of AA discussions. I think that much of his argument is unnecessarily nasty, shrill, and antagonistic.