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It is my honor to introduce to the legal community 15 promising law students who are the 2023 recipients of the LexisNexis African Ancestry Network & LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation...
The Rule of Law is the foundation for the development of peaceful, equitable and prosperous societies. LexisNexis Legal & Professional, supported by more than 10,000 employees around the globe, is committed to advancing the Rule of Law around the globe. Together with the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation, we work on this mission closely with customers, leading industry associations, and not-for-profit organizations such as the United Nations.
To that end, we’re tremendously proud to have launched this new Fellowship initiative from our African Ancestry Network and LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation. The program was created in partnership with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Law Consortium, and provides 12 Fellows with resources to support them in their Rule of Law project, develop leadership skills and accelerate their career.
And now, we are pleased to present their forward-thinking and exciting work in this publication. We at LexisNexis congratulate each of the Fellows on their work and look forward to their future leadership in advancing the Rule of Law and equality for all. Download a copy of Eliminating Systemic Racism in the Legal System: A Collection of Legal Advocacy Papers by the LexisNexis African Ancestry Network LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation Fellowship 2021 Cohort here.
MEET THE FELLOWS
Darnell-Terri Andrews is a third-year law student at the Southern University Law Center. Her legal interests include civil rights and public rights law; she desires to work with a corporate or government entity. During this fellowship, Darnell-Terri had an internship where she pursued posthumous pardons and exonerations on behalf of individuals wrongly convicted. Darnell-Terri’s fellowship project focuses on protecting the rights of minority detainees.
“Protecting the rights of poor and minority detainees who are unable to post pretrial bail and remain in jail despite the legal concept of a prisoner being “innocent until proven guilty” is a fundamental step in eradicating systemic racism.”
Jamal Bailey has an MBA from Hampton University and is a third-year law student attending the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. Currently, Jamal serves as UDC Law’s Student Bar Association President, Managing Editor of UDC Law Review, and a student-attorney in the Community Development Legal Clinic working with DC’s underrepresented business owners. Jamal has accepted an offer with Paul Weiss in the litigation group to pursue a career in litigation focusing on business disputes, white-collar, and securities matters. Jamal’s Fellowship project focuses on reforming access to law school education by challenging the status quo of law school admissions.
“Systemic racism in the legal profession begins with the law school admissions process. The discrimination by effect is carried out by the reliance on standardized text examinations to provide “fair” and “neutral,” but inherently biased,” candidate evaluations, backed by an accrediting body that frequently anchors law school compliance standards at or above the national average of minority populations and celebrated by third-party law school ranking publications.”
Herbert Brown is a third-year law student at North Carolina Central University School of law. Herb is a U.S. Army veteran and holds a Master of Social Work degree from North Carolina State University. Prior to attending law school, Herb served his community both as a psychotherapist and as an adjunct instructor at Durham Technical Community College. As an instructor Herb primarily taught courses designed to reintegrate formerly incarcerated individuals back into society, assist them in securing and maintaining livable wage employment, and reduce the rate of recidivism among his students. Herb is also the founder an executive director of the Real Fresh Apparel Company, a Black empowerment fashion brand and formerly served as editor-in-chief for Real Fresh Magazine, an empowerment and educational periodical. His fellowship project focuses on addressing systemic racism in the legal field with the HB6U practice pipeline, designed to expand access to experiential learning opportunities for HBCU law students and to increase Black and Brown representation in the legal profession.
“The HB6U Law Practice Pipeline’s mission is to increase diverse representation in the legal field through dedicated experiential learning and employment opportunities, provide corporations and firms with a consistent pool of diverse talent, and promote overall goodwill in the fight to end systemic racism in the law profession.”
Ebony Cormier is a third-year evening student at the Southern University Law Center. She’s involved with several student organizations where she’s held many leadership roles, which include National Director of Corporate Engagement for the National Black Students Association. Additionally, Ebony is a 2021 White House HBCU Recognition Program Scholar. Prior to attending law school, Ebony obtained her BS and MBA and spent 17 years in financial services managing business operations, people, projects, and processes. Her fellowship project focuses on making the cash bail system more equitable for indigent, low-level offenders.
“Our just system holds that we are innocent until proven guilty. However, the cash bail system, which disproportionately affects Black and minority people, tells us otherwise. The statistics show that ‘three out of every five people in jail in the U.S. have not been convicted of a crime.’ Then why are they in jail? The answer: the current cash bail system in the United States.”
Oscar Draughn is a third-year law student at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University College of Law. Oscar’s fellowship project focuses on educating and assisting persons charged with low-level misdemeanor offenses about how to defend themselves when adequate counsel is not affordable or provided by the court.
“Most pro se defendants have little knowledge regarding the inner workings of the criminal court system. Therefore, failing to apprise them of their right to legal counsel in the interest of quickly dispensing with cases constitutes a miscarriage of justice.”
Charles Graham Jr. is a third-year law student at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University. Charles has a decorated background in education. Before attending law school, Charles was a special education teacher and educational leader for eight years. As an educator, Charles witnessed the many ways in which law and policy impact families and teachers. Charles hopes to use his platform to advocate for underrepresented communities and promote diversity within the legal profession. Charles’ fellowship project focuses on creating paths to partnership for minority attorneys.
“Many factors contribute to the lack of partner diversity at large American firms. The data reflect only a sample of the barriers to partnership for minority attorneys. There is a need to look at the systems and culture within major American firms to find solutions. This study peels back the layers of major U.S. law firms to understand what firms are doing to retain, and to lose, their diverse talent. The findings of this study show that creating more equitable compensation models is key to unlocking increased access to partnership for diverse attorneys.”
Kailyn Kennedy is a third-year student at North Carolina Central University School of Law. Kailyn currently serves as the Noted and Comments Editor for the Science and Intellectual Property Law Review for the 2021-2022 school year at NCCU. Additionally, Kailyn serves as the President for the Intellectual Property Law Society (IPLS) at the school and has been a member of the organization since her first year of law school. Kailyn practices as a student-attorney in the USPTO-Certified Trademark Clinic. Intellectual property, namely fashion law, is one of Kailyn’s areas of interest. Kailyn’s fellowship project focuses on allowing people of color working in the legal field to have a space to discuss racial injustice that exists inside employment via an innovative web series.
“My project for the fellowship is an interactive web series called ‘Legal Vision’ which will now open the doorway for those within the legal community to have hard conversations, be educated, and find solutions to resolve employment discrimination through a web show. This web show, as currently envisioned, will consist of an initial season with a couple of episodes diving deep into the employment cycle within the legal community in the effort to eliminate systemic racism.”
Pearl Mansu is a third-year law student at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law and has served as a student-attorney in the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic at UDC Law and is currently serving with the school’s Whistleblower Protection Clinic. She is excited to be joining Reed Smith LLP’s Washington, DC, office as an associate after graduation and looks forward to growing in that firm’s litigation practice, as well as its pro bono work with asylum and refugee protection. Pearl’s fellowship project focuses on deepening network opportunities for women attorneys of color to increase diversity in law firm leadership.
“Black women attorneys are vastly underrepresented in law firm leadership across the United States. Amplifying the voices of Black women attorneys by recognizing their credibility on the subject of racial disparity, heeding their warnings about factors that prevent Black women from making partner, and replicating conditions that help them attain partnership are essential ways to combat the underrepresentation of Black women in law firm leadership.”
Paris Maulet is a third-year law student at Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Paris is a first-generation law student who, by way of access to a pre-law program, was able to gain access to a legal education. Paris’ project, The Blueprint Program, aims to help end systemic racism in the legal profession by giving students who come from disenfranchised communities access to a legal education. Her project focuses on preparing prospective law students for the admissions process and ultimately preparing third-year students with the opportunity to have access to the bar exam.
“Access to a legal education and to the tools needed to become successful in the legal field is not the same for minorities as for their white counterparts. This access disparity, in turn, is a disadvantage that drives down the pool of African Americans in the legal profession to a disproportionately low level.”
Shayla McIntyre is a third-year law student at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University College of Law. Shayla has a strong interest in pursuing contract negotiation and mediation in the business, entertainment, and intellectual property fields upon graduation. Shayla serves as Treasurer of the Student Bar Association and participating in the Mediation Clinic Program. Upon completing her Fall 2021 studies, Shayla will become a certified mediator in all counties in the state of Florida. Shayla’s fellowship project focuses on providing a safe space for minority attorneys to voice their concerns and share challenges faced in their professional roles as attorneys.
“Systemic racism is ingrained in the fabric of the United States in the professional sector, educational field, healthcare arena, and many other systems. Diversity initiatives that address the specific needs of minority attorneys, instead of assuming all attorneys require the same diversity initiatives to feel include in the workplace, are necessary.”
Emony M. Robertson is a third-year law student from Howard University School of Law. Her experience as a Strauss Diversity & Inclusion Scholar at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, along with her participation in the Annual Duberstein Bankruptcy Competition, helped to clarify her interest in bankruptcy litigation. After graduation, Emony will clerk for Judge Craig Goldblatt in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. Emony’s fellowship project focuses on reducing racial bias in consumer bankruptcy practices.
“Consumer bankruptcy is a system that does not track race, but that has been found to consist of a clear racial disparity—African Americans are disproportionately advised by their attorneys to file Chapter 13 petitions in comparison to their white counterparts, who are more likely to file Chapter 7 petitions. While there are many reasons that may contribute to this racial disparity, the role of the attorney is one of the largest.”
Feven Yohannes is a second-year law student at Howard University School of Law. Her project focuses on creating an anti-bias judicial training within Harris County, Texas. Her law interest includes human rights law, health law, and international trade. Feven’s fellowship project focuses on eliminating bias in the judicial system.
“Judicial bias pervades our legal system in implicit and explicit ways. Numerous studies demonstrate the ways in which stereotypes among other implicit biases are impacting judicial outcomes. Research has demonstrated that there appears to be biased judicial sentencing.”
For a deeper look at all the Fellowship project, we invite you to read this Shorthand story.