Miles Dunna, a graduate of Mitchell Hamline School of Law, shared a joke with me recently. “You can only be four things if you come from an African family: a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or a disgrace to your family.” Dunna, who hails from Liberia, will fortunately not disgrace his family—at least not with his career choice. The former psychology major now studying for the Minnesota bar credits the Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars program, or PLUS, for giving him the impetus to pursue his interest in law.
PLUS Adds Underrepresented Students
The four-week summer program, an initiative of the Law School Admission Council, introduces rising college sophomores and juniors to the legal profession.
Dunna describes PLUS as both educational and empowering.
“We learned not only how to get into law school, but what law school classes would be like. We also prepared for oral arguments.”
Kent Lollis, executive director for diversity at LSAC, says a goal of the program is to help students not just do well on the LSAT, or law school admission test, but to excel once they’re admitted to law school.
“They need to hone their writing skills, their ability to read complex material, their analytical skills,” Lollis says. “We urge them to take courses in their junior and senior years that demand more rigorous reading and writing.”
Lollis says courses in history, political science, philosophy, economics, and English help to prepare students for the profession, but concedes there’s no “magic major” for law school.
“What they really want is rigor, and PLUS helps them to appreciate that.”
$1.5 Million Award to Increase Diversity in Law School
LSAC is committed to exposing underrepresented students to the demands “of law school and the rewards of the legal profession,” as Lollis told me, and recently announced its awarding of $1.5 million to five law schools so they can host the LSAC PLUS program on their campus for 20 to 30 participants.
The following schools will receive a three-year grant totaling $300,000 in three installments of $100,000 each:
The University of Akron School of Law
The University of Alabama School of Law
Duke University School of Law
University of Houston Law Center
St. John’s University School of Law
Programs like PLUS are needed. Lollis says the legal profession remains one of the least diverse. “Only veterinary medicine is less,” he says.
Another way the PLUS program addresses the diversity issue is by introducing participants to successful lawyers of color.
“It was empowering to see alumni from the University of Arkansas School of Law come back and have meet-and-greet mixers with the PLUS participants,” Dunna says.
“I had not seen a lot of people of color in the legal profession, but meeting them and hearing about their wonderful careers made me feel that law school is a good decision for someone like me.”
For more about LSAC, visit its website.