Widener University School of Law is pleased to announce a new initiative designed to introduce minority undergraduate students to the idea of a law school and a legal career. The program comes at a time when leaders in the legal community have been vocal about the need for greater minority participation in the legal profession. The American Bar Association has made diversity one of its key issues and, closer to home, the Delaware State Bar Association has begun holding daylong conferences on diversity issues for the First State’s bar and bench.
The two-week event, called the JURIST Academy, is a summer-camp style program that runs June 2 through 13 on Widener’s Delaware campus. The goal is to spark an interest in the law among minority undergraduates through an intimate experience that gets them thinking about a life in the law.
While Widener would encourage any of the participants to apply to the law school, should they ultimately choose that path, the program has not been assembled as a school recruiting tool, Law Dean Linda L. Ammons said. Rather, the law school views the endeavor as a contribution to the profession and society.
“Widener is proud to be advancing beyond the ‘talking’ phase of the need for a more diverse bar and bench, and to be moving into an ‘action’ phase where we can demonstrate leadership and our commitment to affect real change,” said Ammons, one of only three African American women currently serving as dean of a U.S. law school. “We are so pleased that the Delaware bar, DuPont, Blue Cross and local law firms are partnering with us on this program.”
The program is being coordinated by the school’s Public Interest Resource Center, under the direction of Sydney Howe-Barksdale. Early this spring, she began promoting it to University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Lincoln University and Widener University undergraduates. After word spread to students at other schools, Widener has seated an inaugural program class of 30 students from more than 15 institutions. Students are coming from as far away as Florida and North Carolina.
Here’s how it works:
The 30 participating students will take part in several law classes set up just for them, in things like torts, criminal law and legal writing. Those classes will happen daily and will involve a final exam, so students get first-hand experience with a law-school-level exam, even though there is no credit or grade riding on the outcome. Each student will be paid a $1,000 stipend for participating in the full program.
The program will also include:
• A field trip to Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP law firm in Wilmington.
• A full-day field trip to the Public Defender and District Attorney Offices in Philadelphia, including a meeting with Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham.
• Discussions about getting into law school, cost and financial aid.
• Discussions about extracurricular activities in law school, such as moot court and law reviews.
• Discussions about balancing law school and life.
• A daily LSAT prep class culminating in an LSAT practice exam.
The program would not be possible without the generous sponsorship of
• Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP
• Morris James LLP
• Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP
• Saul Ewing LLP
• Multicultural Judges and Lawyers Section of the Delaware State Bar Association
• Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Delaware