October 31, 2016
The issue of diversity in the legal profession has been a programmatic focus at Street Law since 2001. Across the country, a range of communities are engaged in conversations about diversity and the future of the legal profession. Students at prestigious law schools such as Harvard and Yale have recently pressed administrators to address diversity and related issues among students, faculty and staff. This can be seen as a continuation of the trajectory set by the American Bar Association in 1986, when they announced Goal IX: “To promote full and equal participation in the profession by minorities and women.”
Street Law’s Legal Diversity Pipeline Program contributes to progress on this issue—with the help of the Association for Corporate Counsel, NALP, more than 45 corporations, ten ACC Chapters, and over a dozen law firms—by focusing on proven strategies to help students of color learn about pathways to the legal profession.
Street Law begins by partnering corporate legal departments, ACC Chapters, or law firms with a nearby high school serving students of color. Street Law staff trains the volunteers, who then team up to visit their partner class and teach about law and careers in the legal profession. The program culminates in a Legal Careers Conference hosted by the volunteers at their corporate or law firm headquarters. Many sites offer program enhancements, like college application prep, job shadowing, internships, or scholarships, to the most promising students.
Participating high school students report a greater interest in legal careers and report that the volunteer lawyers and legal professionals inspired them. (Learn more about the results of our formal program evaluation).
The Pipeline Program gives legal professionals a chance to serve as positive role-models for diverse youths, creates an opportunity for companies and firms to benefit their local communities, and provides a platform for a positive team-building experience for the volunteers.
Each year this program becomes stronger. In fall 2016, the following seven companies and firms joined more than 90 program sites across the country (growing the volunteer cadre to more than 1,400 legal professionals!):
- Holland & Knight LLP (Washington, DC)
- Schiff Hardin LLP (Chicago, IL)
- Precision Medicine Group and Dentons (Washington, DC metro area)
- Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP (New York, NY)
- GEICO (Washington, DC metro area)
- Allstate (Tampa, FL)
- Walmart (Bentonville, AR)
One participating lawyer volunteer recently reflected on his participation in the Pipeline Program by sharing this powerful anecdote:
“When I sat down to lunch today with my group of three students, I assumed their background was as mine was: stable family, college-bound, and eyeing success. I mean, taking the time to attend this Street Law program was a sign of ambition, right? In reality, one of the students had finished working at 3 a.m. that morning. He has two jobs and lives on his own working two jobs combining more than 50 hours a week. He is moving today to a new apartment. The girl at the table, a senior, also worked full time and lives alone. Her mother gave birth to her at 15 years old (mom is now 33). The father is not in the picture and the mom is very unstable and transitory. She hopes to become a medical tech. The final boy at the table lives alone and also works. In short: these students are as disadvantaged as one might find. Yet, they still work and find time to attend school so as not to drop out. Each one aspires to be greater than their circumstances. This program, they shared, gives them confidence. It opens their eyes to new possibilities, new careers, and new hope.”
To learn more about how your company or firm can participate in or support Street Law’s diversity efforts, please contact Megan Hanson.
(Reproduced with permission)
Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Program
Legal Diversity Pipeline Program for Law Firms