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George Mason works with HBCU to attract more Black students to its … – The Business Journals

George Mason University is developing a program to funnel Virginia students from historically Black colleges and universities into its law school and, more broadly, the legal field.
Its first partner in the program is Hampton University and the plan is to expand it to undergraduates at other Virginia HBCUs that don’t have law schools. The aim, said Antonin Scalia Law School Dean Ken Randall, is to expand the pool of students from which George Mason and even other law schools recruit and bring more people of color into the legal field.
“Law schools tend to be really recruiting against each other for what is a relatively small pool of applicants,” Randall said in an interview.
Randall said that diversity is a high priority for the legal profession and that law schools continue to “work hard” to maintain momentum the industry built in recent years. In 2020, 14.1% of attorneys were people of color, according to the American Bar Association, up from 11.4% a decade earlier. At Mason’s law school 21% of first-year law students are from “underrepresented backgrounds,” according to the university.
The first cohort of the pipeline program kicked off in June, when 11 Hampton students, most of whom were rising seniors, spent a week at Mason’s law school campus in Arlington in a pre-law immersion program. Mason provided hotel accommodations and meals and the students from the small, private research university spent their days in classes on the foundations taught by law school faculty. Randall himself taught one course on the U.S. constitutional law framework.
Hampton students who were accepted into this cohort had to take two courses in economics at Hampton and meet other criteria. Mason is also prioritizing students who would be “first-generation” to attend law school and don’t have attorneys in their families, Randall said. If these students admitted into the immersion program then apply to Mason’s law school, they’ll be admitted as Hampton Scholars with a full scholarship starting in the fall of 2023.
Still, while Randall hopes the program will give Mason a competitive advantage in recruiting students to its law school, his broader goal is to increase the pipeline of legal talent.
“The students from Hampton don’t only just have to apply to our school,” he said. “We hope that over time we really help to build a pool of students for law school. We very much hope they apply to us and enroll with us, but they can go to other places.”
The program will have a new cohort of students every summer, though there isn’t a set number of students that Mason’s law school plans to accept into it, Randall said. How large Mason is able to grow the program depends largely on how many other institutions sign on.
Randall said he has just started the process of reaching out to top leaders at the commonwealth’s other HBCUs, though declined to name which ones. There are four HBCUs in Virginia: Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia State University in Ettrick, Virginia Union University in Richmond and Virginia University of Lynchburg.
Another key part of the program is networking. Apart from taking classes, the Hampton students are mentored by Mason faculty and spend time with attorneys and other leaders in Greater Washington’s legal field.
“First-gen students, sometimes they’ve not had the same networking opportunities as students who have lawyers in the family,” Randall said. “The goal, in some ways, is really to help network students and to give them that exposure to law firms, agencies and the institutions of the legal profession.”
The program, which has been in the works for several years, is approved by the American Bar Association, according to law school Senior Associate Dean Alison Price.
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