Danielle Conway
Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law
Penn State Dickinson Law



In 2020, the cascade of murders of Black and Brown individuals and the Black Lives Matter protests demonstrated the prevalence of systemic, structural, and institutional racism. Structural racism permeates our democratic institutions, including legal education and the legal profession. For example, LSSSE data from that same year reveal that “[a]lmost a quarter (23%) of Black law students nationwide say their schools do ‘very little’ to create a supportive environment for race/ ethnicity, compared to just 6.8% of White students.”

Similarly, the LSSSE 2020 Annual Report Diversity & Exclusion revealed that students of color need greater institutional support to avoid being stigmatized on campus, as “14% of Native Americans, 18% of Latinx students, and a full quarter (25%) of Black students believe their schools do ‘very little’ to emphasize that students are not stigmatized based on identity.”

Penn State Dickinson Law has created the Antiracist Development Institute (ADI) to work in coalition with organizations and institutions to help facilitate dismantling structures that scaffold systemic racial inequality using a systems design approach.  Systems design, leveraging design thinking approaches, is a vehicle to iteratively identify users and their needs to prototype and test solutions to seemingly intractable problems such as systemic racial inequality and systemic oppression.  Legal education and the legal profession are starting points because of their special duty to deliver on equal justice.  The ADI has identified institutional antiracism as a significant component of a multilayered strategy in the pursuit of systemic equity.

This interdisciplinary approach to legal education provides law students and lawyers the critical thinking skills that accompany introspection about the role of legal education and the legal profession in creating, interpreting, and counseling of laws that have scaffolded structural racism in American society in contravention of the fundamental value of equality vis-à-vis equal liberty, equal justice, equal citizenship, equal rights, and equal protection of the laws.

The ADI builds on the concepts and information presented throughout the “Building an Antiracist Law School, Legal Academy, and Legal Profession” book series to provide law schools and other institutions with a blueprint that will be workshopped through the stages of systems design.

“Building an Antiracist Law School, Legal Academy, and Legal Profession” is distinct in its use of a systems design approach combined with antiracist principles to transform law schools from edifices of systemic inequity into sustainable democratic institutions whose platform is built upon principles of systemic equity. It is unique for its admixture of systems design, organizational theory and practice, and antiracist theory and practice. The book series is the precursor from which the Antiracist Development Institute will use series content to develop course and workshop materials.

Over 155 colleagues from the legal academy, legal profession, and adjacent organizations are contributing to the book series as chapter contributors, editors, content reviewers, and workshop facilitators, representing 62 institutions across the country.

To get involved in this project, please complete this involvement survey.