Katherine Nunez stood at the podium as a Columbia Law School 1L addressing lawyers from corporations and law firms. She described how she was now a law student because of her participation as a New York high school student in the college preparatory and pipeline diversity program known as Legal Outreach. Katherine was followed at the podium by Melissa Romain, a Fordham Law School 1L, who also graduated from Legal Outreach. Melissa described how her participation in the internship program Legal Outreach facilitates with law firms, and law departments at companies such as American Express, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley, was an essential step in her path to law school. She proclaimed that “these attorneys not only told me about being an attorney, but also provided me with the opportunity to work on legal issues.” She developed confidence and a vision that, against the odds, she could make it as an attorney.
Participation as a provider for the Legal Outreach internship program allows corporate law departments to help bolster the unfortunately week supply side of the diversity market. In a nation in which 13% of the population is African American and 18% is Latino, only 10% of law school 1L’s are Latino and 9% of 1L’s are African American. And the further in the pipeline we wait for intervention, the weaker the supply gets. Only 4.28% of law firm associates are African American, and 4.57% are Latino. But Legal Outreach graduates maintain a strong positive association with the brands of their internship providers and, indeed, many Legal Outreach graduates have gone on to work full time for internship providers. Laureen Seeger, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of American Express proclaims:
“Year over year, we are consistently impressed with the professionalism and enthusiasm of our interns from the Legal Outreach program. The students invigorate our general counsel organization, and provide us with not only a terrific diversity pipeline but also a fun and inspirational week for our lawyers who truly enjoy interacting with these passionate and engaged students. It’s a real win-win for our organization and for Legal Outreach.”
The internship programs at American Express, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley require only a one week commitment during which time each internship provider is asked to expose four to eight rising urban high school sophomores enrolled in Legal Outreach to the practice of law. Attorneys and other staff members provide information on their practice areas, teach students how to network, and work with students on preparing a legal deliverable. The internship program is part of a continuous four-year college prep and diversity program facilitated by Legal Outreach, a program founded by Harvard Law graduate James O’Neal in New York City. Legal Outreach students are not only exposed to the law through the internships but also through their participation in a Summer Law Institute and through a mentoring program where each student is paired with an attorney who supports them from their sophomore through senior year. Equally as important if not more, Legal Outreach helps each program participant develop the academic skills – persuasive writing, public speaking, critical thinking – needed for success in college, graduate school and beyond. Students’ participation in these programs results in their admission perennially to some of the nation’s most competitive colleges including but not limited to Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, U. Penn, Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, Wellesley, Georgetown, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, and many more.
Internship providers partner with Legal Outreach because of their metrics and quantifiable success, the benefits to the providers’ diversity initiatives, the manner in which Legal Outreach simplifies the process for internship partners, and the professionalism demonstrated by the students themselves. The college graduation rate of 94% for Legal Outreach alumni not only triumphs over the 18% college graduation rate of high poverty high schools nationally, but also is the equivalent of many well know college access and support programs including the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program. Moreover, Legal Outreach is one of the few early intervention diversity programs able to track long-term success. 10% of program graduates have matriculated to law schools, and 30% have attended other graduate schools.
The Legal Outreach internship program offers a very positive return on investment for corporate law departments. Legal Outreach currently works with 49 internship providers, but is looking to expand and work with many more partners. To find out more about the internship program, contact Tamika Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-752-0222 Ext. 202.
Craig Livermore holds a master’s degree from Harvard and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. He is a non-profit strategy and development consultant, currently working with Legal Outreach. He was formerly the founding Executive Director of NJ LEEP (Law and Education Empowerment Project), a nationally-awarded urban college access and diversity non-profit.