On the first Saturday morning in November, dozens of students from the University of South Carolina, Benedict College, and Allen University came to the Joseph F. Rice School of Law for the inaugural Minority Pre-Law Summit.
The goal of the Summit? To give underrepresented students a hands-on opportunity to learn more about the practice of law and the law school experience.
“Bridge to Law Programs like the Minority Pre-Law Summit create opportunities for all students by cultivating interest in law and increasing access to legal education,” says Susan Kuo, associate dean for academic affairs. “These programs are especially valuable for low-income and first-generation college students, many of whom might not otherwise envision a career in the legal profession.”
When David Mahatha, Ph.D. started as director of the Office of Inclusive Excellence, he knew pipelines and pathways were a priority, but he didn’t anticipate the first Minority Pre-Law Summit would take place less than a year after he joined the law school.
“When I started meeting with faculty and staff, and our Black faculty in particular, it was just a common message: ‘We want to do this,’” Mahatha says. “I am very proud of what we accomplished.”
As part of the summit participants attended a mock class, a legal writing workshop, and three panels featuring, respectively, current students, faculty, and alumni who shared where their law degree has taken them. The program also included a session on applying to and funding law school.
“The law school admissions process can be very intimidating,” says Jada Wilson ‘23, who spoke on the alumni panel. "I wish I would have known about the various financial resources and opportunities that are available before applying to law school.”
The Summit concluded with a reception and an opportunity for the students to reflect on their experiences as well as their futures. One student shared her thoughts with Mahatha, affirming the essential nature of these programs.
“She said ‘I was a little afraid. I wasn’t sure that law school was for me, but this confirmed that I am going the right direction,’” Mahatha says. “That's what it's about. I don't know if she'll come here, I don't know what her plans are, but we know we are boosting awareness and diversity in the law of profession, and that's what matters.”
The Minority Pre-Law Summit is one of several pipeline programs facilitated by the Office of Inclusive Excellence. Each of these projects caters to a different age group, and all are designed to help marginalized and minoritized students envision a clear path to law school.