May 28, 2024


The Legal System

SIU’s inaugural Diversity Prelaw Summer Institute aims for more inclusive legal profession


CARBONDALE, Ill. — Fifteen high achieving juniors and seniors from colleges around the country will gain insight on legal careers and preparing for law school at the Southern Illinois University School of Law’s inaugural Diversity Prelaw Summer Institute, May 25-29 – part of SIU Carbondale’s commitment to diversifying the legal profession.

The institute fits well with SIU’s strategic plan, Imagine 2030, which includes a pillar to improve diversity, equity and inclusion, said law school Dean Camille Davidson.

“The experience will benefit rising junior and senior college students as they get a glimpse of what law school is like,” she said. “Our institute will also enrich our legal system. Representation matters, and multiple perspectives instill trust. We tend to trust a system when we see ourselves among the advocates and decision makers.”

Davidson noted that about two-thirds of minority applicants who apply to the law school are not accepted primarily due to low Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores. The institute aims to change that. It will help students begin to prepare for the LSAT while honing skills necessary for law school, such as understanding how to read and analyze cases. Also included will be tips on legal writing, paying for law school and the various career paths available with a law degree. Student will also interact with lawyers, law students and law school faculty.

“We welcome this opportunity to educate a diverse group of students on the law school application process and all that it entails to create a pipeline from undergraduate programs straight to law school,” Davidson said.

Media availability

Interested media will have an opportunity to talk with SIU School of Law faculty and participating students May 25-29. To make arrangements, contact Carly Holtkamp, SIU School of Law director of external relations, at 618-453-8312 or [email protected] or Mike Ruiz, assistant dean for career services and coordinator of anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at 618-453-8762 or [email protected].

Introduces students to SIU

Davidson noted that that the institute also offers an opportunity to introduce SIU “to a population of students who may not realize that law school is within their reach.” SIU has the only public law school is within two hours of St. Louis, and it is only three hours from Nashville and Memphis.

“We are preparing them and selling ourselves,” she said. “We want to improve our diversity and the diversity of the profession, which is still in 2022 less than 5% Black and less than 5% Hispanic.”

Participating students are coming from SIU Carbondale, SIU Edwardsville, Governors State University, Harris-Stowe State University, Howard University, Jackson State University, Skidmore College, Stillman College and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Learning inside and outside the classroom

Among those assisting in the program will be 2021 SIU law school alumna Deidre Powell, an associate in the Armstrong Teasdale litigation group St. Louis office, and Wisconsin state Sen. Lena C. Taylor, a 1993 SIU law school graduate. In addition to panel discussions and participating in a mock criminal law school course with Taylor, students will visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, on Thursday, May 26, and participate in a dinner and discussion with members of the Ben F. Jones Chapter of the National Bar Association.

On Friday, May 27, the group goes to St. Louis to visit the Armstrong Teasdale law office and take part in a diversity panel discussion with attorneys Gabriela Baeza-Stout, Paul L. Brusati and Sarah Sise; Kahalah Clay, chief legal counsel with the Illinois Prisoner Review Board; Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court Judge Milton S. Wharton and Bob Wallace Jr., former St. Louis Rams vice president and general counsel and current chairman of Thompson Coburn LLPs sports law group.


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