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UB Law diversity initiative receives additional funding

Discover Law students at UB Law School, from left to right: Denzel Moore, Habiba Mohamad, Danhui Dong, Daily Guerrero, Ninteretse Jean Pierre, Alice Lam and Luis Munive. Photo: UB Law School

By ILENE FLEISCHMANN

Published March 19, 2015

“We are very proud of the students who have participated in our program and so very excited to have the opportunity to host the program for one more summer.”
Lillie Wiley-Upshaw, vice dean for admissions and student life
UB Law School

The UB Law School’s award-winning initiative to attract underrepresented minority students to the legal profession will continue for a fourth year.

The Discover Law initiative, which brings students of color who have completed one or two years of college to UB during the summer and immerses them in activities related to the law and legal education, has received an additional grant from the Law School Admission Council. LSAC initially had funded the program for three years and was able to extend that funding for one more summer.

The program, under the leadership of Lillie Wiley-Upshaw, vice dean for admissions and student life, aims to diversify law school classes — and later the profession — one promising young person at a time.

The Minority Bar Association of Western New York is a co-sponsor of UB’s Discover Law program.

“We are deeply grateful and humbled to receive one more year of funding,” Wiley-Upshaw says. “We are very proud of the students who have participated in our program and so very excited to have the opportunity to host the program for one more summer. We are hopeful that we will be able to raise the necessary funds to do it on our own in 2016.”

In the program, 20 students live on the UB North Campus for a month during the summer, earning a $900 stipend to offset income they might otherwise have earned during that time. They take four rigorous courses taught by UB Law faculty members, attend field trips to see the law in action, learn about the admissions process and shadow a judge or attorney for a day.

Specific curricular activities over the years have included intensive seminars on the law school admissions process and skill development for the LSAT, tours of correctional facilities and courthouses, a résumé-writing workshop and an ethnographic research project in which the students interviewed people of various ethnicities about their views of the law and explored their own experiences and identities through journaling. Students also have been matched with volunteer mentors from the local legal community.

Participants have come from as far away as Atlanta and Wisconsin, although preference is given to applicants from Western and Central New York, northeastern Pennsylvania and eastern New York.

Kent D. Lollis, LSAC’s executive director for diversity initiatives, says about 18 law schools nationwide have participated in the Discover Law initiative since its inception in 2002.

In addition to UB Law, the law schools of the University of Arkansas and the University of Texas, Austin will take part in the program in 2015.

“It’s a real commitment,” Lollis says of the program, “and I admire the schools that have done it. It’s one of the most labor-intensive programs we sponsor. We’re very pleased with the program overall, and we wouldn’t have made this offer if UB’s program had not been effective according to our evaluation standards. I know that the school has been eager to secure additional funding to operate the program over the long term.”

The success of UB’s Discover Law initiative also has attracted statewide attention: The UB Law School is being honored by the New York Law Journal, which has designated the Discover Law program a Diversity Initiative Project 2015 in recognition of its commitment to creating a diverse legal community and sustained efforts to reach that goal.

The legal publication is honoring “law firms and legal organizations that confronted barriers to attracting, training, retaining or supporting diverse talent, and created realistic initiatives to overcome those obstacles and provide ongoing opportunities for growth and advancement.”

UB Law is the only law school being honored. The awards ceremony will take place March 30 in New York City.