San Francisco Attorney Magazine

Fall 2021

Diversity Legal Pipeline Takes Students from Dreaming To Doing

By Samantha Akwei


 

 

 

As a part of our current 2021, BASF Board President Marvin Anderson’s initiative to increase diversity in the legal profession, the Justice & Diversity Center created the Diversity Legal Pipeline (DLP) program to demystify the law school application process and increase the number of diverse students equipped to enter the field of law. 

Although JDC's Diversity Department hosts several panel discussions at local colleges and universities every semester through Destination Law School, this two-day intensive workshop took a more in-depth interactive approach in providing tangible tools to support diverse students to take the information they attain, to application, in readily applying their newfound knowledge.

Opening Welcome Panel featuring (from left to right) Justice Tracie Brown, Associate Justice of the First District Court of Appeal, Judge Haywood Gilliam, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Shining Hsu, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Juan Walker, Oracle.

Ten students were admitted to participate in our inaugural class. Participating schools included: Cal State East Bay University, San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco, University of California Davis, Santa Barbara, and Berkeley with 90% being women, 50% Latinx, 20% Asian American and 30% African American.

The opening session began with a “How To Apply To Law School" presentation by Berkley Law Dean of Admissions Alice Young. A panel featuring prominent attorneys and judges in different sectors of the law then shared personal stories about their careers, how they got to where they are now, how they paid for law school and the importance of networking and seeking out as many opportunities as possible.


Ad

Mena Pirone
Founder of Logic Game Pro

Programs like the Diversity Legal Pipeline are so important for helping to level the playing field in a realm where disparities in representation have real-world, long-lasting, and often life-altering consequences. It is a joy and an honor to be part of such crucial work.


Participants then took a diagnostic exam, for many of which was their first time. "I found it exciting and scary at the same time but overall it benefited me when I was making my study plan for the LSAT," said Volicitie Dodge, a student participant.

Logic Games Pro Founder Mena Pirone, gives a thorough overview of an LSAT Logic Game.

A breakdown of the Logic Games section of the LSAT was covered by Harvard Law graduate and minority-women testing company Logic Games Pro Founder Mena Pirone.

“Programs like the Diversity Legal Pipeline are so important for helping to level the playing field in a realm where disparities in representation have real-world, long-lasting, and often life-altering consequences. It is a joy and an honor to be part of such crucial work,” said Pirone.

The first day concluded with a panel discussion featuring current law students sharing the importance of first-year grades, outlines, and the need to formulate wise study groups early in their experiences.

Golden Gate University School of Law Graduate, Justin Thompson shares law student best practices.

Given COVID-19 precautions, the second day was held virtually and proved to be just as successful as participants met one another on the first day. The session began with having students consider their personal stories and how they shape the context of their law school personal statements.

Public Sector Panel featuring Virginia Dario Elizondo, San Francisco City Attorney, Catherine Ongiri,Judicial Council and BASF Board Member, Judge Kandis Westmore, Magistrate Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

As a follow-up to students becoming more familiarized with the LSAT, participants received a more robust overview of the Reading Comprehension and Logical Reasoning sections of the exam. Juan Carlos Ibarra, UC Hastings, presented to students on the Socratic Method often used in Law School classes; emphasizing the skills and critical thinking participants need to develop to become successful law students.

Recognizing the financial barriers that often impede diverse students' ability to apply to law school, each participant was eligible to receive an LSAT scholarship sponsored by BASF to support their studies. Each participant was also paired with an experienced attorney-advisor to offer technical and moral support during their application process.

“I've enjoyed working with Marisol, a young mother who is juggling family, work, college, and volunteer duties while navigating the law school application process,” said Jay Lee, a former Supervising Attorney at JDC. “Despite her full plate, Marisol has maintained her passion and commitment to helping immigrant families by becoming a family law attorney, and I'm honored to be helping her move toward that goal in my small way.”

The workshop concluded with a public sector panel featuring renowned attorneys and a judge; speaking to the differences in rewards and drawbacks compared to the private sector. As a result, participants of the workshop left having gained the practical tools of what it takes to become a prospective law student and a future lawyer. Above all, it was most important for President Anderson to give diverse students the reassurance that programs like the Diversity Legal Pipeline exist to erase their doubts and present before them a community that truly cares and will work to ensure their dreams come true.


Special thanks to all of our 2021 Guest Attorneys and Judges:

Justice Tracie Brown, Associate Justice of the First District Court of Appeal

Carla Castillo, Carla’s Writing Space

Virginia Dario Elizondo, San Francisco City Attorney

Judge Haywood Gilliam, United States District Court for the Northern District of California

Kai’Ree Howard, University of San Francisco Law Student

Shining Hsu, U.S. Attorney’s Office

Juan Carlos Ibarra, UC Hastings, Academic Skills Lecturer

Catherine Ongiri, Judicial Council and BASF Board Member

Mena Pirone, Logic Games Pro

Justin Thompson, Golden Gate University School of Law Student

Carolina Ugalde, UC Hastings School of Law Student

Juan Walker, Oracle

Judge Kandis Westmore, Magistrate Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California

Alice Young, Berkeley Law Director of Admissions

Congratulations to our inaugural class:

Jamie Ancheta, Cal State East Bay

Barbara Carmona, UC Davis

Denise Calvillo, City College of San Francisco

Marisol Cordova, Cal State East Bay,

Volicitie Dodge, Cal State East Bay

 

Javon Johnson, Cal State East Bay

Giao Nguyen, UC Berkeley

Esteban Salazar, UC Berkeley

Lena Sylva, San Francisco State

Rahel Zeleke, UC Santa Barbara


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Samantha Akwei is the Diversity and Pipeline Programs Director at the Justice and Diversity Center (JDC). She oversees JDC’s educational pipeline programs, including the School-to-College program, Law Academy, and the Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarship program.