New scholarship aims to increase minority law school enrollment

By Kelly Caplan
BridgeTower Media Newswires

DETROIT-Detroit's Wolverine Bar Foundation (WBF) has partnered with The Princeton Review to create an innovative new program designed to reduce financial obstacles to law school enrollment and increase representation of underrepresented students in Michigan's law schools.

LSAT preparation is the first hurdle many students have to overcome, and it was a driving force behind the development of the Law School Pipeline Program (LSPP). The scholarship program, launched on Jan. 3, was created after WBF leadership gathered feedback from Michigan's law schools about challenges to minority enrollment.

"We are excited to partner with Princeton Review to increase the pipeline of underrepresented students attending law school in Michigan," said Terrence J.L. Reeves, Wolverine Bar president. "The feedback we received from law school deans is consistent with many of our own experiences - preparation for the LSAT can be cost prohibitive for many aspiring lawyers."

Forging a partnership

The foundation realized they would need a partner to get the scholarship off the ground. Reeves said the WBF was able to forge a relationship with The Princeton Review simply by reaching out. It appears to be a solid match as The Princeton Review is the nation's leading LSAT preparation course provider.

"We reached out to the Princeton law review, highlighted some of the issues we were seeing, and worked with them to find a solution that we could champion and implement," noted Reeves, the member-in-charge of Frost Brown Todd LLC's Ann Arbor office. "Our goal is to reduce obstacles that students face when taking the LSAT for as many students in our community as we can."

Full tuition

The LSPP provides full tuition scholarships toward "The Princeton Review's LSAT Ultimate Course," and includes expert in-person instruction and 150 hours of online videos and drills, practice tests, and print materials. The program targets Michigan residents and undergraduate students applying to in-state law schools.

"This is a substantial investment to ensure we provide underrepresented students with the resources they need to submit applications that match their qualifications and promise," Reeves said. "LSPP joins the Summer Clerkship Program and the Judicial Externship Program, as programs reflective of the Wolverine Bar's long-standing commitment to reducing obstacles for underrepresented students and attorneys in Michigan."

Michigan residents or undergraduates at a Michigan university are eligible to apply for the LSPP. Eligible applicants must also plan to apply for admission to a Michigan law school. Those who demonstrate financial need will be given preference.

More than the LSPP

The scholarship is still in its early stages, but response has been positive so far.

"We've had students and parents of students reach out to us to get more information on how they can apply for the scholarship," Reeves said. "Our members are excited about the ability to offer such a valuable tool to prospective law students."

While a primary goal is to bring visibility and success to the LSPP, the foundation, along with the Wolverine Bar Association (WBA), offer much more to students.

"The WBA and WBF support and administer several educational and community outreach programs, including the Minority Bar Passage Program, which is designed to improve bar passage rates of graduating law students," Reeves said. "Additionally, the Summer Legal Institute is geared toward high school students who express an interest in the law."

Success stories

Based on the foundation's track record of success in its other educational outreach programs, the outlook for the LSPP is positive.

"So far, over 400 minority students have been placed in judicial externships through our Judicial Externship Program," Reeves said. "Our Minority Bar Passage Program had a 95% Bar Exam passage rate in the 2017-18 bar year, and in 2018-19, we gave away $20,000 in scholarships."

Community involvement

Reeves said all attorneys, not just WBA members, are encouraged to become mentors for students of all ages.

"We pair law students with practicing attorneys, who help with study habits, career goals and career opportunities," he said. "We also partner with Pretty Brown Girls and Mighty Young Men by SDM2 to provide mentorship and exposure to elementary through high school level children."

This sharing of skills and knowledge isn't just for those who want to mentor, but for those who want to learn as well.

"We are in the process of ramping up another area of mentorship, in which we will pair new attorneys with more seasoned attorneys," Reeves said.

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Published: Fri, Mar 13, 2020