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Law School for All

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Diversifying the legal profession 

By Kristy Hutchings 


The USC Gould Admissions team, with support from the Law School Admission Council’s Diversity Matters Initiative, recently hosted a Law School Exploration Workshop that was geared towards opening the pathway to law school up to community college students. 

USC Gould, along with five other California Law schools, “were the first law schools to support Community Colleges Pathway to Law School Initiative as a means to help diversify the legal profession,” according to Brenda Cortez-Martin, Gould’s associate director of admissions. The initiative was established in partnership with the State Bar of California and the California Department of Education to create a pipeline of diverse students from high schools, community colleges, four-year institutions, and law schools into law or law-related careers.
With support from the Law School Admissions Council Diversity Matters Initiative, Gould was able to host their first workshop in February 2018. Proving successful, Gould's admissions office followed-up with a second program in November 2018. 
The Law School Exploration Workshop, which is specifically for community college students, is aimed at fostering a greater sense of academic diversity at USC Gould and within the legal profession. Cortez-Martin said that “the idea behind the workshop was multifaceted,” and targeted to provide prospective law students with three important tools:  hands-on experience in an hour-long mock class hosted by Associate Provost for Faculty and Student Initiatives in the Social Sciences and Professor of Law and Sociology Camille Gear Rich; an opportunity for networking with current students as well as alumni; and lastly, a strong foundation of information about the necessary steps to be taken in order to attend law school. 
A main component of the student experience at the workshop was the panel discussion, which featured USC Gould alumni (who attended community colleges), current law students (who are first-generation college students or who attended a community college), and the Senior Assistant Director of USC Undergraduate Admissions. 
Cortez-Martin noted that her intent for the panel was to include voices that prospective students could easily relate to. “I wanted alumni and students who walked in the same path (community college route) and are now success stories,” she said. “For example,” Cortez-Martin continued, “some of our panelists shared [their experiences of] being children

Brenda Cortez-Martin with a prospective student 
of immigrants, first-generation college students, who were suffering social-economic disadvantages, or navigating the education system on their own.” 
One of the panelists on the “Toolbox for Success” discussion, Ashley Zavala (2L), noted the significance of workshops like these to assist community college students, or students taking a non-traditional path to law school, to build a solid foundation for their future careers. “I absolutely believe that these workshops are important,” she said. “Although I was diligently preparing to transfer out of community college, I had no idea what I wanted to do once I transferred. I wish that workshops like these were available to have helped me plan the ‘big picture’ and to see other community college students that successfully achieved their goals.” 
By providing a space for potential law students to explore their career options in a hands-on, network-based environment, USC Gould is doing its part to continue to develop academic and professional diversity in the legal profession. Further, Cortez-Martin emphasized Gould’s hope “to be able to provide more of these Law School Exploration Workshops in the future and to expand the types of experiences we can offer.” 



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