Sponsored content by AccessLex
The diversity of legal education does not yet reflect the diversity of American society. In turn, the legal profession is the least diverse profession in the U.S.
Although law schools have been actively trying to increase racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity among their students, their efforts are frequently undermined by disadvantages that people from underrepresented backgrounds are more likely to face, such as unequal educational opportunities and limited access to rigorous LSAT prep.
AccessLex Institute is trying to change that, with the launch of LexScholars by AccessLex℠, an innovative new diversity pipeline program designed to help counteract the effects of these disparities. As a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the most critical issues facing legal education, improving access to law school for all students, with an emphasis on historically underrepresented minority students and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, is a guiding principle. The goal is to see graduating law school cohorts reflect the diversity of the nation by 2025.
Toward that end, LexScholars is designed to provide more resources and guidance to more than 1,200 aspiring law students, over five years. The program particularly targets people who possess potential for law school success but may be unlikely to gain admission due to unfavorable LSAT scores and/or undergraduate grades.
“The ‘ideal’ LexScholars participant has endured multilayered disadvantages,” says Aaron N. Taylor, executive director of the AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence, and the principle architect of the LexScholars by AccessLex program. “And despite potential for success and a clear, demonstrated commitment to attending law school, they remain unlikely to gain admission without targeted assistance.”
LexScholars participants will benefit from access to various resources, including LSAT preparation, law school admission counseling, financial education, wellness training and writing skills development.
Additionally, a smaller cohort will be invited to participate in a four-week residential summer program in Washington, D.C.
The separate cohorts will be randomly selected in an effort to not insert any bias that may unintentionally mirror the biases these students are already facing. However, the selection will be weighted, with applicants who most closely align with the “ideal” LexScholars profile, based on application materials and applicant background, having greater odds of being selected.
AccessLex is intent on identifying not only what the obstacles for underrepresented law students are but ways they might be reduced to mere bumps along the way. This is only possible when there is a true understanding of what interventions are necessary and when they will be most effective for student success, which explains the separation of participants into different cohorts that will receive different combinations of resources.
“An ultimate goal of LexScholars,” says Dr. Taylor, “is to develop sustainable and scalable models for effective diversity pipeline programming.”
Therefore, as a condition of participation in LexScholars, participants will be required to submit monthly reports and complete surveys detailing their experiences during the law school admission process. AccessLex researchers will track the experiences and outcomes of participants and use that information to aid their individual progression, while also studying it in aggregate to develop diversity pipeline models that will benefit legal education, the legal profession and society in the long run.
Students from underserved communities often become lawyers dedicated to giving back to the places they came from or to areas like them. The impact of this cannot be overstated as there are scores of people across the country who would benefit greatly from gaining access to highly trained attorneys and other public servants. As well, a legal education offers training that is unmatched in its quality, portability and flexibility. A law degree can be advantageous even for those who do not aspire to practice law. Individuals whose trajectories lead them to public policy, politics or education will see their career prospects bolstered by their legal education. And communities with increased numbers of educated, employed and civic-minded residents are stronger for that.
These are high-minded goals that are achievable only through a commitment made at the ground level, and it’s that bootstrap thought leadership that AccessLex is in the business of providing.
As Dr. Taylor says, “This is the kind of results-driven work AccessLex Institute is uniquely positioned to do, and we look forward to seeing LexScholars help move the needle on law school diversity in a positive direction.”
The LexScholars by AccessLex application opened on February 3 and closes on April 1. For more information, please visit: Accesslex.org/lexscholars.