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Increasing Equity in the Legal System

October 27, 2022
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At LexisNexis Legal & Professional, we have been committed to the mission of advancing the Rule of Law for many years. That's because our 10,500 people can see the bright line between strengthening legal infrastructures and furthering peace, prosperity and progress for all people.

The Rule of Law is the principle that no one is above the law and that all are equal before the law. Robust economies depend on the existence of clear and accessible laws that govern society and commerce, and an independent judiciary to enforce laws and contracts in a timely manner so that citizens and businesses can be sure that their interests are protected from arbitrary forces.

We are tremendously proud to have launched a second cohort of Fellows through a partnership of our African Ancestry Network employee resource group and LexisNexis® Rule of Law Foundation. The program was created in partnership with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Law School Consortium, including Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Law, Howard University School of Law, North Carolina Central University School of Law, Southern University Law Center, Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, and the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. In its inaugural year, we provided 12 Fellowships across six law schools, and we are pleased to have grown the fellowship to 18 in the second year.

In the following papers, you will read about action-oriented solutions to increase equality under the law by increasing equity in the U.S. legal system. The Fellowship projects cover a range of topics, including increasing education about, and exposure to, the legal profession for youth, providing legal resources to increase equity in wealth creation, and leveraging LexisNexis® data to increase equity in the courts and criminal justice system. Each of the Fellows were challenged to uncover how LexisNexis® products could be used to address and eliminate systemic racism in the legal system.

Meet the Fellows

These extraordinary thought leaders examine the complex issues and conditions that have rendered an inequitable legal system. Research and analysis by our Fellows address a myriad of challenges. Most importantly, the Fellows offer viable recommendations and solutions that chart realistic pathways forward to make a significant impact in key areas, such as increasing law school student and legal profession diversity; improving access to tools and resources for the benefit of vulnerable citizens who are engaged in the judicial or legal system; and promoting equity in wealth preservation and creation. Underpinning these scholars are LexisNexis® analytics, products, tools, and people.

Oyinade Adebayo is a third-year law student at Howard University School of Law. She plans to pursue a career in labor and employment law upon graduation. Her project focuses on the disparate impact of the juvenile-to-adult court waiver system. Her mentor for this project is Elizabeth Christman, Senior Director of Product Management.

Mikel Brown II is a third-year law student at Thurgood Marshall School of Law (TMSL) at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. He has had his own negative experiences with the justice system early in his life, which is reflected in his mission to dismantle the pipeline-to-prison and increase the number of African Americans in law. His mentor for this project is Erika Lehman, Senior Director, Large Law.

Dominique Lashuan Douglas is a third-year law student from North Carolina Central University School of Law. Her project’s mission is the development of “The Gavel League,” a mobile application designed to increase literacy and comprehension of critical legal concepts for youth in the United States, as well as for their parents and guardians. Her mentor for this project is Margaret Unger Huffman, Esq., Senior Product Manager.

Songo A.R. Wawa is a third-year law student from the University of the District of Columbia School of Law. After graduation, Songo is committed to continuing her work in public service as an attorney. Her project is an online webinar series designed to jumpstart high school students into the legal field. Her mentor for this project is Rhea Ramsey, Esq., LL.M, Regional Manager, Large Markets: Large Law & Law Schools.

Alexus McNeal is a third-year law student at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. Her project’s mission is to create an accessible LexisNexis repository of racially diverse case law to help legal scholars, historians, and others to increase awareness of minority culture and nuances in the law. Her mentor for this project is Natasha Newberry, Director & Senior Corporate Counsel.

Nicolle Londoño is a third-year law student at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University College of Law (FAMU). Her project’s mission is to increase the diversity of students in prestigious and lucrative fields of law by providing HBCU law school students with additional professional development support. Her mentor for this project is Brian Kennedy, Director, Government Content.

Joanne Louis is a third-year law student at Howard University School of Law. After graduation, Joanne will join the Investment Funds and Private Equity practice at Sidley LLP in Boston, MA. Her project’s mission is to develop a curriculum outline to provide minority entrepreneurs with the mentorship, resources, coaching, professional development, and training that they need to launch a law practice successfully. Her mentor for this project is Jamie Holden, Director of Enablement.

Kristina M. Hall is a third-year law student at Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law. After graduation, her goal is to clerk for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Kristina’s fellowship project focuses on creating opportunities for law students of color to obtain a federal clerkship and increase the number of people of color in the federal judiciary. Her mentor for this project is Afsoon Khatibloo-McClellan, Director, Global Associations.

Aquilla Gardner is a J.D. candidate at the Howard University School of Law. After graduation, Aquilla is planning to work in big law in the District of Columbia. Her project’s mission is to gather survey results and analyses documenting bias in the jury selection process in North Carolina and to develop a jury dashboard to show what a bias-free jury might look like in a county-by-county data visualization tool. Her mentor for this project is Steve Carroll, VP Customer Insights.

L. J. Chavis is a third-year law student from the Southern University Law Center. After graduation, L. J. plans to return to D.C. area to pursue his legal career. His project’s mission is to increase awareness of progressive prosecution practices by exploring why progressive prosecution has a positive impact on society and argue that progressive prosecution should be employed and held as a standard by all prosecutors. His mentor for this project is L. Delaine Frazier, Esq., Client Manager.

Edrius Stagg is a fourth-year law student at Southern University Law Center. His project focuses on reducing racial bias within the jury selection process by creating a data visualization dashboard prototype by leveraging digital technologies (via contractual procurement by state government) to utilize current, real-time information to ensure that a summons to jury duty is sent to the correct address and represents the demographic make-up of the state/county/parish community, per Census Population data. His mentor for this project is Jacqueline C. Hall, Director, Operations — Quality Assurance & Program Management.

Nija A. Bastfield is a fourth-year evening law student from The University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law. After graduation, Nija seeks to become an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. Her project focuses on providing digital litigation assistance for marginalized communities. Her mentor for this project is Serena Wellen, Senior Director, Product Management.

Amari Roberts is a third-year law student from Florida A&M University College of Law. Her project is the McCleskey Act, a bill proposal that focuses on eliminating Georgia’s death penalty system’s discriminatory intent requirement and that would instead require only proving that a law has discriminatory impact. Her mentor for this project is Teal Taylor, Relationship Manager.

Talia Thomas is a third-year law student at the Howard University School of Law. Her project’s mission is to analyze the racial disparities present within the American capital punishment system and argues that law schools should introduce and expose their students to additional career paths as federal defenders. Her mentor for this project is Amber McKinney, Managing Editor, Law360.

Marian Anderson is a third-year law student at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her  project highlights some sentencing disparities for racialized groups by focusing on law makers’ refusal to decriminalize marijuana use and possession at the federal level. Her mentor for this project is Dave DiCicco, Senior Director of Product Management.

Zuri Ward is a third-year, evening student at North Carolina Central University School of Law. Her project focuses on addressing systemic racism and increasing access to the law by educating entrepreneurs and creators about their intellectual property rights and how they can protect their work. Her mentor for this project is Meredith Crews, Senior Vice President, Finance, Knowable.

Brianna A. Joaseus is a third-year law student at the Southern University Law Center. Her project’s mission is the creation of resources to decrease bias in the appraisal process by identifying “red flag” situations in which the appraisal process may be being applied unfairly or with bias. Her mentor for this project is Rachel Travers, Vice President, Law360.

Lauren Skarupsky is a third-year law student at Southern University Law Center. Her project’s mission is to create a toolkit that will help alleviate the wealth gap in the United States by advocating for the building of generational wealth through estate planning. Her mentor for this project is David A. Collins, Director, Product Management.

Click here to download the full publication to read in-depth about the Fellows and their projects.