“It’s Dermot, like Kermit with a ‘D.’ It’s Irish. I immigrated to Colorado in 1989.”

By Dermot Lynch

Small talk becomes memorable—I’ve left a good impression, made you laugh, or perhaps triggered a twinkle in your smiling Irish eye.

My immigration story is always an asset, my first name a vehicle to immediate association with a much-loved diaspora.

“I’m Latoya Brown, I was wondering if you might have ten minutes when you would be willing to meet with me to briefly talk about your work.”

If Latoya sends the above email to a professor at a grad school she wants to attend, she is far less likely to receive a response than if “Brad Anderson” sends the exact same email.  According to a recent study led by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the difference in the response rate for this unsolicited correspondence with a potential mentor is 21 percent higher for men with Caucasian-sounding names than for those that sound African-American and female. 

The Penn study shows just how much access your name can buy, and it hits on an important distinction between the “gateway” and “pathway” problems that underrepresented groups face in attending graduate school.  According to the Penn study’s authors, “Gateways are entry points into valued organizations, communities or institutions, while pathways describe the more fluid processes that influence one’s ability to access an entry point and to be successful after entry.”

I have joined LAW SCHOOL…Sí Se Puede to tackle the pathway problems I see in the law school admissions process: the subtle characteristics of undergraduate studies that allow some to have an edge in even making it to the gatekeepers at elite legal institutions. 

Judge Arguello’s solution to pathway problems is to create a supportive network for students from groups under-represented in the legal profession so they can learn from each other and from those who have already run the admissions gauntlet. I am excited to play a small part in the mission for change that she so ably directs.