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Akron Law to start new diversity program

Legal News Reporter

Published: December 29, 2017

Administrators and educators at The University of Akron School of Law are preparing to launch a brand new summer program designed to generate interest in law school among students from diverse or underrepresented socio-economic backgrounds.

This after the school received a $300,000 grant from the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) to fund the four-week summer immersion initiative.

LSAC’s DiscoverLaw.org Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) program seeks to increase diversity in the legal profession by giving underrepresented rising sophomores and rising juniors the tools they need to successfully apply to law school.

“We’re really excited about this grant,” said Akron Law Dean Christopher J. Peters. “We underwent a very competitive process to receive it.

“This year, only five schools were awarded this funding and fewer than 30 law schools have received these diversity grants since they first became available in 2002.”

Akron Law was the only Ohio law school to receive a grant this year.

“We are honored that LSAC has recognized Akron Law’s commitment to diversity by selecting us to establish a PLUS program,” said Peters. “For us the program is partly a response to our concern that many people, especially those from communities of color, have become disillusioned with the law and disinclined to consider a legal career.

“Hopefully this program can help to change young people’s minds and convince them that they can make a positive difference through the legal system,” Peters said. “It would be nice if some of the participants eventually apply to Akron Law, but as long as they become engaged with the law and seriously consider pursuing a legal career, the program will have fulfilled its mission.”

Lia Evans Jones, director of alumni and development at The University of Akron School of Law, said the grant money will be paid out in installments over the next three years.

“The grant funding will enable us to lay a solid foundation for the program, which we intend to continue after the grant period concludes,” said Evans Jones.

“We hope the program will draw national interest,” said Evans Jones.

She said the main goals of the initiative are to introduce and familiarize students from diverse or underrepresented backgrounds with what a law school education entails and the career opportunities that it provides.

In addition to introducing students to the environment, she said educators would be providing training on how to craft a personal statement and prepare for the LSAT along with giving students an idea of what the admissions process is like.

“This is a four-week residential program so the students will be housed on The University of Akron’s campus,” said Evans Jones. “They will attend courses like legal writing and trial advocacy, hear from guest judges and lawyers in the Akron community and go on field trips to the local courthouse or a law firm.”

She said the first session is expected to begin in June with 20 students.

Educators hope to have the application available online in mid-January and will continue accepting applications through the end of March.

“We anticipate that students will be notified in May,” said Evans Jones.

Brant Lee, professor of law and director of diversity and social justice initiatives at Akron Law said the application form has not yet been finalized.

“My expectation is that we will be looking at some indication of academic success,” said Lee. “We will also ask the students to write an essay in which they discuss their experiences and explain whether those experiences have resulted in them having a more difficult time achieving their goals.

“The program is not limited to racial minorities,” said Lee. “For example, if someone tells us that he or she was raised by a single parent in a crime infested area, we may determine that person could benefit from our program.

“The same is true if the applicant says he or she lives in a rural community, but one or both parents are addicted to opioids. We will also consider students with a disability.

“We will be taking a holistic approach when we look at the applicant,” he said.

Lee said the total enrollment at Akron Law this fall was 453 students; about 6.4 percent are African American, 1.5 percent are Asian American and 4.2 percent are Hispanic.

“The overall goal of this program is to help more students of color and those from challenging socio-economic backgrounds make it to law school,” said Lee. “If that results in Akron Law increasing its diverse population that would be an added benefit.”

Students who are selected for the program will not be required to pay tuition and they will also receive housing, meals and a stipend.

For more information on the program and application process go to uakron.edu/diversity-grant to sign up for the email list. Those interested can also send an email to LawPLUS@uakron.edu or call 330-972-6616.