Diversifying Higher Education – A Post Affirmative Action Path Forward
Published by Bloomberg Law
A new program seeks to build a pipeline of diverse future lawyers while they are still in high school, with help from Big Law firms.
Thrive Scholars, a Los Angeles-founded organization that supports high-achieving low-income students of color, has started a new track aimed at creating a greater pipeline of black and Latinx attorneys to work at top law firms.
Most programs to build a more diverse legal field start with students in college or law school, but Thrive’s program aims to find ambitious future lawyers earlier.
“The students are there,” said Steve Stein, CEO of Thrive Scholars. “They’re talented, they’re motivated, they’re hungry and they want to be lawyers.”
Big Law firms have long struggled to recruit and retain diverse attorneys.
According to a 2019 study by the National Association for Law Placement, attorneys of color make up 25.44% of associates and just 9.55% of partners in major law firms.
Thrive Scholars recruits high-performing high school juniors to participate in a six-week academic boot camp with three hours of calculus and three hours of writing daily.
Roughly 40% of Thrive Scholars students go on to attend Ivy League colleges and nearly all attend top 50 universities, Stein said.
Stein said he was first approached by Peter Zeughauser, chair of law firm consultancy Zeughauser Group, to see if the Thrive program model could transfer to the legal industry.
In addition to its regular programming, its newly created Law Track will connect students to a law firm who sponsors them, Stein said. Students will get access to partners or associates at the firm to be mentors as well as to internship opportunities when they get to college.
“Thrive Scholars’ approach is unique in that it focuses early and intensively on advanced writing and math skills, and it has a track record of increasing the number of Black and Latinx students who can get to their senior year of college with the grades they need to get into top law schools and get jobs at top law firms when they graduate,” said Zeughauser in a statement.
To date, Holland & Knight and Honigman have signed up to partner with Thrive Scholars as a part of its law school track, but Stein said he is talking with close to 15 law firms.
Thrive Scholars accepted 100 high school students into its program last year out of 1,500 applicants. Stein said the number that the program can support this year depends on how many firms sign up.
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