Pipeline to a More Diverse Legal Profession – Samuel W. Seymour

Samuel W. Seymour

President’s Column, January 2012

Nothing is more inspiring than seeing the New York City Bar Association’s Meeting Hall filled with a group of students eager to pursue a legal career, especially in light of recent negative news and commentary surrounding law school transparency and the legal profession. That the students represent the beautiful diversity of our society makes it all the sweeter.

The City Bar’s Diversity Pipeline Initiative was created to encourage and support inner-city students as they pursue a legal career, and works to increase the number of students who graduate from law school. The office provides professional experience, development, and educational programs for students through high school and college and as they enter law school, by offering access to information and assistance in developing the necessary skills to succeed academically and professionally.

The primary component of the Pipeline Initiative is the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship Program, which places high-achieving inner-city high school students with legal employers for the summer. Students spend six weeks providing administrative support while familiarizing themselves with an office environment. To supplement their internships, they also participate in weekly development programs, including a law class at Columbia, a visit to a NYS Supreme Court judicial chamber, and a variety of career development workshops put on by a diverse group of attorneys. In the final week of the program, students participate in Job Shadow Week, where they spend a day with attorneys in organizations that align with their career aspirations. Upon completion of the Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Internship, the students are matched with a law student mentor to help them navigate the LSAT and law school admissions process, and give them exposure to life as a law student.

As you can imagine, these experiences can be formative for students. Jasmine Lawrence, a 2011 Thurgood Marshall Summer Law Intern, summarized her experience as the the “first step” toward her future. She said, “This program was the first opportunity I’ve ever had to interview on the professional level, to write a resume and cover letter. But even more so, the program became a place where I was able to meet people my age who not only have a strong desire to make a change but are also taking proactive steps to make it happen.” Raabia Qasim, who went through the Thurgood Marshall program in 2006 and is now a member of the Alumni Advisory Group, said, “The program has been instrumental in my professional and personal development and has helped me build a network that is continuously yielding new opportunities for me.”

The City Bar also hosts an annual LSAT/Law School Prep Series for college students. This January, 150 students from more than 50 undergraduate institutions nationwide took LSAT Prep classes and attended panels by law school admissions counselors, career counselors, and law students on everything from the application process to financing law school. Students were given admissions information from participating law schools as well as free courses and study materials from prep companies at the program’s Networking Fair.

The C. Bainbridge Smith Scholarship is provided to promising second and third year inner-city law students. Additionally, the Thurgood Marshall Fellowship Program provides talented minority law school students with opportunities to work on behalf of clients at the City Bar Justice Center, or to participate in research and policy analysis with our Committee on Civil Rights. Finally, the City Bar’s Committee on Recruitment and Retention of Lawyers facilitates the Diversity Fellowship Program for New York City law students from disadvantaged backgrounds or from groups that are underrepresented in the legal profession, giving them the opportunity to spend the summer after their first year working as summer associates in a law firm or corporate law department.

This initiative is a terrific opportunity for committees, groups and organizations that share a common goal to collaborate to expand the program, so that more students can be provided with the support they need. I encourage you to join us and share your expertise by volunteering at a program, participating in the Diversity Pipeline Initiatives Committee, or by making a donation to support its development. With your help, we can make a tremendous impact on the life of a young, talented student, and help to enhance diversity in the profession.

To get involved, please contact Gabrielle Brown at or (212) 382-6713.