Varnum diversity program offers scholarships for education, LSAT

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Understanding that it is necessary not only to help diverse students attend law school, but also to go back even further and ensure that gifted four-year college students will be assisted along the path to law school, Varnum has announced two different types of scholarships.

The first set of two is $4,000 for first-year law students, regardless of whether they are Michigan residents attending a law school in or out of state, or non-residents going to an accredited Michigan law school.

The second set of scholarships supports undergraduate juniors in attending a Law School Admission Test (LSAT) preparation course, with a value of about $1500 each.

Varnum Partner Beth Skaggs, who is very active in the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Program, said “We have found it’s another great way to grow our pipeline. Giving those students the opportunity to participate in a way that’s meaningful – those LSAT prep courses are very expensive, and LSAT scores are one of the largest factors in where you go to law school.”

Candidates must satisfy a list of criteria before they can apply.

For the $4,000 scholarships, students must be accepted into an accredited law school, have a cumulative minimum 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA), and be a “member of an ethnic or racial minority or demonstrate(...) a significant commitment to issues of diversity and inclusion.”

The same demographic and GPA constraints apply to the LSAT prep scholarships, for which applicants must be a junior level student currently at an accredited Michigan college or university.

There have been three previous Diversity and Inclusion scholarships given, with two awards in each year. Skaggs says that  one of the six recipients accepted Varnum’s offer to work there last summer, and another has remained in close contact since receiving the award.

She is pleased with the program’s success so far, particularly in “growing the firm’s reputation” as a good place for women and ethnic/racial minorities to work.

“Clients are demanding they be represented by a diverse group of attorneys. Also, it’s just the right thing to do.”

Varnum’s award-winning Diversity and Inclusion programs have been around for more than 15 years. The group’s annual report is available at

One innovative approach Varnum has taken is to create a Diversity and Inclusion Council of community members with expertise in non-legal arenas.

Other ways in which the Diversity and Inclusion program functions is through an aggressive schedule of educational and networking opportunities throughout the year, and through financial support for diversity initiatives throughout the broader community, such as the Institute for Healing Racism and the Urban League.

Skaggs also plays an important role in the effort as a member of the firm’s Recruiting Committee. That panel of attorneys conducts interviews of all entry-level personnel, including summer associates, and makes recommendations. Her role is to keep communications open between the recruiting and diversity/inclusion teams.

“These scholarships are just one way we continue to build diversity and inclusion into the fabric of the firm,” Skaggs comments.

Applications must be re-ceived by Mar. 15, 2011. Candidates must apply by visiting, or by calling 616-336-6000 for more information.
Applications must include a transcript and personal statements of goals and commitment to forwarding inclusivity.