The last few years in particular have highlighted how the most marginalized voices in society are foreclosed from many prominent and crucial places in society. Some have acknowledged this reality and have tried to come up with ways to fix this wrong. The legal community has sought to come up with solutions. One of these solutions has come from law firms through the initiative of “diversity scholarships.” These scholarships provide law school tuition assistance to law students from “a population that historically has been underrepresented in the legal profession.” The recipient is typically a summer associate at the firm and often later becomes a full-time associate. This article provides a run through of what diversity scholarships are and how to apply for one.
What are diversity scholarships?
Diversity scholarships are usually provided by major law firms, but boutique firms provide them as well, along with non-profit organizations. The general goal of these programs is to give financial support to people from diverse backgrounds who have not had the same opportunities as privileged communities. Just about all law firms who do offer them require the recipient to eventually join the law firm in order to receive the full scholarship. So firms are likely using these initiatives as a way to increase diversity among their associate classes.
In terms of qualifications, many firms state you need to be from a “historically underrepresented group in the legal profession.” Beyond that you must attend an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law school. Some scholarships have further specifications beyond that, such as that you need to be a certain year in law school (1L vs. 2L). Interestingly, only a few specify that you have to be a US citizen or be authorized to work in the US, so there may be flexibility on any issues that might emerge if you do not meet either of those requirements. In terms of grades or LSAT score, there are not firm qualifications. None of the law firm scholarships mention an LSAT score. About half ask for a transcript, while others use phrases like “academic performance achievement” or “academic excellence.”
These programs also offer benefits for your legal career, such as mentoring from higher ups at the law firm, experience in a legal training program, and ways to improve your legal advocacy skills.
Law firm diversity scholarship programs
Though these scholarships are competitive, there are quite a few offered. The National Association for Law Placement is a great resource for them, but it is not exhaustive.
Ropes & Gray’s Roscoe Trimmier 2L Diversity Scholarship
Roscoe Trimmier was Ropes & Gray’s first African American partner. They provide an unspecified number of 2L students with money for law school and a placement in the 2L summer associate program. This program specifies that scholarship recipients must be U.S. citizens or authorized to work in the U.S. There is not a specified deadline for this program, but it is a good idea to try to apply prior to fall of your 2L year.
The Baker McKenzie 2L Diversity Fellowship Program
In terms of eligibility, you must be in your second year of law school. The firm gives participants $10,000 for law school and a placement in the Summer associate program. It appears that you can do the Summer program in any US or Toronto office that Baker McKenzie has. The application process is rolling and you can start to apply on December 1st.
Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett, LLP’s Conrad Harper 2L Diversity Fellowship
Amount: $15,000 when you join the summer program, $15,000 when you start at the firm as a first year associate, $10,000 after your first year and $10,000 after your second year. $50,000 total.
Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett named this program after their first African-American partner. The program is for 2L students. As the amount shows, you receive the scholarship funds incrementally each time you work with the firm. The last deadline listed is July 9, 2021, so it is worth checking the site for updates closer to Summer 2022.
Jenner & Block LLP 2022 2L Diversity Scholarships
You apply via email, but information about the application can be found here.
This program also appears geared towards 2Ls. They give out two awards. It requires spending your 2L summer with the firm. The last listed deadline was at the end of Summer 2021, so it is likely best to check for next year’s program closer to Summer 2022.
Fish & Richardson 1L Diversity Fellowship Program
Amount: Up to $30,000
Unlike several of the other programs, this one is for students in their first year of law school. It goes beyond mentioned “historically underrepresented” groups and also mentions people “identifying as a person with disabilities, openly LGBTQ, and/or a military veteran.” You have to participate in the summer program.There has not been a posting for this year’s program, but for last year, the application process was rolling, with a “priority deadline” of December 30.
Cadwalader’s Catherine Noyes Lee 2L Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship
Amount: $7,500 when you complete the Summer program (on top of your summer salary) and $7,500 when you start as a full-time employee. $15,000 total.
This program is named after the firm’s first female partner. This program requires the participant to be in the New York office. Participants must be 2Ls and work in the Summer associate program. The last posted deadline was for June 28, so it is best to check as the Summer gets closer.
White & Case 1L Diversity Fellowship
Amount: Unspecified, it appears to be a 1L Summer associate salary
White & Case’s program targets 1Ls and there is no added money on top of participating in the 1L Summer program. You can work in the Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York or Washington, DC office. The deadline to apply starts in early December and is rolling.
White & Case First Generation Professional Scholarship
White & Case also has a similar program for 2L law students. This law scholarship does offer scholarship money on top of the Summer stipend. However, in order to receive this money, you must join the law firm. This program is specific to their New York office. The deadline to apply is July 5, 2021.
Linklaters Making Links 2L Diversity Fellowship Program
This program is open to 2Ls. You have to participate in their Summer program. You must work in their New York or Washington DC office. The deadline was September 3rd, but the application window opened on June 1st, so it is a good idea to look at their application as it gets closer to Summer.
Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP 2022 Diversity Scholarship Program
Application: By email to [email protected], you should include a statement of interest that is not longer than 500 words, your resume, law school transcript, and two academic or personal references. Be sure to make the subject line “Diversity Scholarship Application –NAME”.
This program targets 2L students. It is incumbent upon participating in a summer associate program in any of the firm’s 25 offices. It characterizes diversity like many of the other scholarships, but it also adds religion “marital/parent status”, along with “diversity that may be reflected in beliefs among prospective student awardees—whether political, economic, social, or philosophical.” The deadline was September 1 and had opened July 26, so it is best to check back in as it gets closer to the deadline.
Caplin & Drysdale’s Caplin-Swanson Diversity Fellowship
Amount: $5,000 after their 1L Summer, $5,000 after accepting a 2L summer associate position offer and $10,000 after their 2L Summer. $20,000
This program is named after a Black attorney, George H. Swanson, who was a trailblazer in the law, despite facing racial discrimination. It is also named after the firm’s founder, Mortimer M. Caplin, who assisted Swanson in fighting back against racism. This program has you apply as a 1L, and the money is contingent on how long you stay with the firm. You get all of the money if you spend at least six weeks of your 2L Summer with the firm and accept a full-time offer. You must work out of their DC office.
Morrison & Foerster Keith Wetmore 1L Fellowship
Amount: $12,500 after you accept an offer to return as a 2L summer associate and $12,500 after you agree to work for them full time. $25,000 total.
This program is given out to 1Ls, but receiving the actual money is contingent on returning as a second-year associate in the Summer program and ultimately agreeing to work for the firm. The firm has given out 79 fellowships overall, but it does not say how many they have given out per year. The last deadline published was for January 29, 2021, so it is likely the application will open for the next year in early 2022.
Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP’s Diversity Scholars Program
Amount: Up to $75,000 that is split among four participants
This program specifies LGBTQ and disabled as qualifying. Financial need is a factor in determining how much each individual participant receives. The participant must want to practice in San Francisco. The last deadline posted was for February 12, 2021, so there is likely a new deadline coming up.
Norton Rose Fulbright’s 1L Diversity Fellowship
This specific program is made exclusively available to 1L students. It is contingent on participating in the Summer associate program of your 1L year only. The participant can work in the Austin, Dallas, Houston, New York, San Antonio or Washington DC office. The last deadline posted was for January 31, 2021, so a new one will likely be posted soon.
Norton Rose Fulbright’s 2L Diversity Fellowship
This program is similar to their 1L program, except that it is for 2Ls. Additionally, the program allows for participants to also work in their St. Louis and Los Angeles offices. The $10,000 is contingent on the summer associate coming back to work at Norton Rose Fulbright full time.
Cooley Diversity Fellowship
Amount: $10,000 after 1L Summer, $10,000 after 2L Summer, $10,000 upon joining the firm. $30,000 total.
This program starts in your 1L Summer. The amount you receive from the scholarship is contingent on you continuing to work for the firm. The last published due date was January 8, 2021, so it is likely that the next deadline will be published soon.
Linklaters’s Making Links 2L Diversity Fellowship
This program is for 2Ls. The money is contingent on participating in the Summer associate program and ultimately joining the firm. In this posting, they preface that they want someone who is interested in working for the firm long-term. The last deadline posted was for January 11, 2021, so it is likely that there will be another posting soon.
Barnes & Thornburg Diversity Scholarship
Amount: $5,000 after the first summer, $5,000 after the second summer and $5,000 when they join the firm. $15,000 total.
This program starts for 1Ls. The money is contingent on continued involvement with the firm. Even for the first $5,000, you need to agree to come back to the firm the next summer. You must work in Indianapolis, South Bend/Elkhart or Chicago. The past deadline to apply was December 1, 2020, so a new deadline will likely be posted soon.
Arent Fox Diversity Scholarship Program
Amount: $10,000 for participating in their 2L summer and $10,000 when they join the firm as an associate. $20,000 total.
The program is for 2Ls. It requires that you work at their Boston, DC, Los Angeles, New York or San Francisco office for the 2L summer. The scholarship money requires that you first do your 2L summer at the firm and then the other half after you join the firm. The last posted deadline was February 1, 2021, so there will likely be a new deadline posted in the next few months.
Cullen and Dykman Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship
Amount: Up to $10,000
This program is for a second-year law student. It says the amount you can receive is as much as $10,000, but it does not give concrete numbers. The fellowship says that you need to participate in the summer program, but it is not clear if you need to return to the firm full time in order to receive an offer. The last application deadline was posted was January 1, 2021, so another deadline will likely be posted soon.
Paul Hastings Diversity Scholarship Award
This program is for 1Ls or 2Ls. For both it is contingent on participating in the Summer program. For 1Ls, the deadline is February 19. For 2Ls, the deadline is January 18.
Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP Diversity Scholarship
This program is available to 1Ls or 2Ls. The participant needs to participate in the Summer program for at least eight weeks. The scholarship is distributed after the participant finishes the program. There is not a deadline posted.
Miller Nash Graham & Dunn First-Year Law Student Diversity Fellowship
This program is for 1Ls. Participants must be willing to work in either Seattle or Portland. Only one fellowship is given out per city. The program requires participating in their Summer program. The last posted deadline was for January 8, 2020. So there will likely be another posting soon.
Bingham Greenebaum Doll Diversity Scholars Program
Amount: $5,000 after the first Summer, $5,000 after the second Summer. $10,000 total.
The program is for 1Ls. Participants must participate in the summer associate program. Award recipients need to work in Indianapolis or Louisville. The first installment of the scholarship is dependent upon returning for a second summer and the second installment is dependent upon joining the firm.
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner 2L Diversity Scholarship Program
Amount: $5,000 after the Summer program and $5,000 during the second semester of your 3L year, if you accept a full-time offer. $10,000 total.
This program is for 2Ls. The award is given to up to four 2L students. Recipients must participate in the summer associate program. The full amount of the scholarship is dependent on you actually joining the firm. There is not a clear deadline posted.
Akin Gump/Robert Strauss Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship Program
Amount: $12,500 when you join as a 2L summer associate and $12,500 for joining the firm as a first year associate. $25,000 total.
The program starts during 1L Summer. The participant only needs to spend four weeks at the firm. The scholarship money is dependent on participating in the 2L summer program and ultimately becoming a first year associate. There is not a clear deadline posted.
Perkins Coie 1L Fellowships
This program starts 1L Summer. Interestingly, there is a general 1L diversity program and one for political law out of their DC office specifically. The program awards the opportunity to come back for a second summer. It is unclear if you need to participate in their 2L program in order to ultimately receive the scholarship money. Their site says to check in November for future opportunities.
Arnold & Porter Diversity Fellowship
Amount $10,000 to $15,000 (depending on office)
Depending on what office you want to work at, you will get a $10,000 or $15,000 scholarship. There is a general one for $10,000, but the office specific ones are for $15,000. For an office-specific one, you need to be from a law school either in their state or the general area. It does not say when the next deadline will be out yet.
Non-profit organization diversity scholarships
Aside from law firm diversity scholarships, there are also diversity scholarships given by different non-profit organizations.
The American Bar Association’s Legal Opportunity Scholarship
10-20 law school students receive this scholarship every year. You apply upon entering law school. There does not seem to be any requirement beyond the usual diversity and school requirements. So this allows for flexibility in pursuing a public service career. It does not have a clear deadline posted.
Foundation for Advancement of Diversity in IP Law’s Sidney Williams, Jr. Scholarship
This scholarship fund is specifically for students who want to focus on IP law. The scholarship seeks to increase diversity in IP law. Students must apply the February before they are seeking to gain admission to law school. Up to 25 participants are accepted each year.
Paying for law school is never easy, and the high cost serves as another barrier to entry for underrepresented communities. As people are coming up with new ways to afford law school, everyone should be seeking out any potential resource that can help. Diversity scholarships can help supplement other ways of paying for law school, like financial aid. Although these diversity scholarships are competitive and will not solve the lack of diversity in the legal profession, these are worth applying to, particularly if you want to work at a law firm.
Todd Carney is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Public Communications. He has also worked in digital media in New York City and Washington D.C. The views in his pieces are his alone and do not reflect the views of his employer.