NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Fordham Law School announced today that it has launched a new program for college students designed to promote opportunity and diversity within the legal profession. The Fordham Legal Education and Access Program (LEAP) marries legal skills development with experiential opportunities that expose students to key aspects of law, legal institutions, and legal practice at the local, state, and national levels. The first cohort of LEAP students will begin their experience by participating in Fordham’s popular Pre-Law Institute, which begins on Tuesday, July 2, 2019.
LEAP seeks to enhance the diversity of the legal profession and the Law School by including underrepresented students from Fordham University and other institutions, especially those that are CUNY-affiliated, in its innovative program. This year’s entering class of ten includes students from eight different New York colleges; a majority of first-generation college students; and individuals who collectively reflect the broad diversity of the New York region, including racial, economic, and religious-based diversity.
LEAP students will spend three summers and two academic years engaged in the program, which prioritizes legal skills development; legal writing training; and deep engagement with individuals and institutions in all areas and levels of the legal profession. The first summer includes five weeks of legal classes in core areas such as property and contracts. During the remaining two summers, students will participate in paid-internships with non-profit or government-based institutions, and private law firms.
LEAP will also provide students with opportunities to meet New York City-based lawyers, judges, and other officials; and interact with faculty and alumni mentors. They will have the chance to take trips to Albany, N.Y., and Washington, D.C., that include visits to major legal institutions such as the U.S. Supreme Court. LEAP students will receive full financial support for all aspects of LEAP, including the Pre-Law Institute, seminars, writing tutors, and costs associated with trips and transportation. Students will also be provided monetary stipends throughout each year of participation.
LEAP is the result of many years of engagement with diversity issues at Fordham Law and creative thinking about how best to address the systems and structures that serve as a barrier to inclusion for some students. Nitza Escalera, dean of diversity initiatives and assistant dean of student affairs, has provided critical and inspirational leadership over the years, as has Professor and Associate Dean Leah Hill, who led early efforts to launch a pipeline. The constellation of individuals involved in launching the program this year include not only Dean Escalera, but Professors Susan Block-Lieb, Elizabeth Cooper, Abner Greene, Cynthia Juco, Robin Lenhardt, Kimani Paul-Emile, and Russell Pierce; administrators such as Kathryn Espiritu, Susan Kalicharan Garcia, Julie Smith; and fellows Jennifer Haastrup and Wilyne Michel.
“We have created an intensive learning experience aimed at opening the door to legal education and the legal profession for students who otherwise would be locked out,” said Professor Kimani Paul-Emile, who previously chaired the Law School’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and who also serves as associate director of the Center on Race, Law and Justice at Fordham Law School. “The goal is to diversify Fordham Law School and the broader legal community.”
Professor Robin Lenhardt, current chair of diversity and inclusion and faculty director of the Center on Race, Law and Justice, said, “The legal profession continues to suffer from a severe lack of diversity, and many students who would make great lawyers continue to encounter many obstacles that block their paths to a legal career. This program will hopefully open a pipeline funneling strong, diverse students into law for years to come.”
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