Shaping the Tributary: The Why, What, and How of Pipeline Programs to Increase Diversity in Legal Education and the Legal Profession

By Laura Rothstein

The goal of the Pipeline Models Conference, hosted at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, was to provide an understanding of the diversity pipeline, to expand awareness of the array of program models, to expand the portfolio of practical tools for program development and implementation, and to energize the connection to a network of professionals engaged in similar activities at other law schools. ... This article focuses on encouraging those planning new programs to consider a variety of issues and those with existing programs to re-assess and perhaps fine tune their programs. ... For the Law and Government Magnet, students take their social studies courses as a focused magnet program. ... While current faculty members, associate deans, or other individuals might be asked about interest in creating, building, or maintaining a program, unless that individual has the personal commitment to the goals of pipeline programs, it is unlikely to be successful. ... For example, a faculty vote was required to approve academic credit for law students in the Marshall Brennan program and public service credit for other programs at Central. ... Pipeline programs are also factors in general positive community building within the institution for students, faculty, staff, alums, and others. ... The miscellaneous costs for the Central partnership include mugs (with the Central and the law school logo) given as thank you gifts to volunteers and supporters, brochures prepared for publicizing the program (particularly through the admissions process), and prizes given for the essay competition. ... When Central law magnet students visit campus for programs and events and when these are combined with a campus tour and information session by the admissions office, the cost of food is paid by that office. ... Other key partners include the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky (which provides an annual gift to cover costs of Marshall Brennan materials and for an essay contest prize) and the Women Lawyer's Association (WLA) and the Louisville Black Lawyers Association (both organizations funding prizes for the essay competition). ... If the pipeline program is to involve mentoring or teaching standardized test taking skills or resume writing, it is important that some knowledge of how to teach these skills is part of the training or knowledge base of the law students. ... Alumni involvement was extremely high, including the development of a new Black Alumni Association, which reached out to the high school students, pre-law students, and current minority students.

Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don't. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky -- but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.

-- Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell  

 Laura Rothstein is a Professor and Distinguished University Scholar at the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She received her B.A. from the University of Kansas and her J.D. from Georgetown University. The article was a product of presentations given at the Law School Admissions Council Pipeline Conference at The Ohio State University.

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