AccessLex seeks to increase diversity under new program

While law schools are becoming more diverse, some contend that they aren’t as diverse as they should be.

The problem? Many students who want to be lawyers come from backgrounds that don’t give them the same launching pad — access to good schools and rigorous LSAT prep — that students from more affluent backgrounds have. 

They don’t pass muster when it comes to traditional measuring sticks, such as grade point average and LSAT scores. And the legal profession is the poorer for it, says Aaron Taylor, executive drector of the AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence

His organization wants to change that.

AccessLex is introducing an innovative new program called LexScholars, which is to help underrepresented students get key, robust support to give them a better shot at improving their chances.

These are young people who have a strong desire to go to law school and have qualities that would make them good lawyers, but they can’t get their foot in the door, said Taylor, the principle architect behind the concept. 

“The ‘ideal’ LexScholars participant has endured multilayered disadvantages,” he said. “And despite potential for success and a clear, demonstrated commitment to attending law school, they remain unlikely to gain admission without targeted assistance.”

The program is open to students from underrepresented racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds who need a boost to get into the nation's law schools. 

“We think there is untapped talent in that group,” Taylor said.

The LexScholar program will kick off with about 250 students who will have access to various resources, including LSAT preparation, law school admission counseling, financial education, wellness training and writing skills development.

A smaller number, about 25 students, will get even more assistance under the program. They will be invited to attend a four-week residential program on the campus of Catholic University in Washington D.C.

The program, which is costing the nonprofit $1.5 million, is slated to run five years and help as many as 1,200 students.

There is most definitely a need, Taylor said. As many as 3,000 underrepresented students applied to law school last year and didn’t get offers, he said.

“The pool is large.”

Yes, law schools do make an effort to diversify with pipeline programs, he said. However, those efforts usually help prospective students who are more law-school ready. “Our focus is on people who law schools don’t want,” he said.

Many of these students may very well feel discouraged because they’ve been unable to jump the many hurdles to obtain law school admission. Taylor has personal experience. His best friend wanted to be a lawyer, but did poorly on the LSAT. His dream was denied.

This program offers a whole new avenue. “They’re not used to anyone taking an interest in them.”

That’s going to change.

And Taylor notes the importance of that. Such students tend to become lawyers with a mission of giving back to their communities. Law remains one of the least diverse fields and that needs to change, he said.

“Law touches everyone,” he said.

The LexScholars application will open on February 3 and close on April 1. For more information, please visit: Accesslex.org/lexscholars.

 

 

 

 

 

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