“This is a great time to be in law school and become a lawyer. You see it every day in the headlines. We need more people to speak out about what’s right, and be advocates for equity, for so many different causes and so many different people.”
That’s how Dean of Students Grace Hum kicked off UC Hastings Law’s third annual Justice For All: Diversity & Inclusion in Law School Admissions program. This special series of interactive panels and workshops present the law school admissions process from the perspective of diverse applicants.
Hosted by the Admissions Office and held virtually this year, the program drew more than 150 prospective students. Attendees learned about best practices for applications and essays, attended a mock Contracts class with Emeritus Professor Leo Martinez ’78, and got the scoop on the inner workings of how applicants are evaluated in a panel featuring a mock admissions committee meeting.
Organized by Mario Ernesto Lopez ’15, Associate Director of Admissions & Diversity Initiatives, who served as emcee, the program is a unique opportunity for prospective students who may be unfamiliar with the admissions process, such as first-generation students.
“This program is unique among Bay Area law schools,” Lopez said. “We care deeply about increasing the pipeline to legal practice for diverse future lawyers. We’ve attracted very promising candidates and enrolled numerous attendees from past programs.”
The program featured a panel with members of Hastings’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Working Group, including Dean of Students Grace Hum; Elizabeth McGriff ’96, Director of the Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP) and the school’s DEI advisor; Lauren Lofton, Associate Director for Student Life and Inclusion; and Professor Manoj Viswanathan, Co-Director of the Center on Tax Law.
Panelists spoke openly about the challenges of continuing to make campuses feel welcoming to diverse students and the importance of cultural competency and sensitivity across college environments. Panelists discussed critical race theory and acknowledged that much of U.S. law has been based on discrimination and bias. “You have to decide if you are going to participate in the system, or change it,” Prof. Viswanathan said, a mentor with Hastings First Generation Professionals. “To what extent should we be assimilationists, and to what extent should we be involved in tearing down racist structures? That’s the question.”
This is an open and active discussion at UC Hastings. This is the first year, for example, that UC Hastings has required DEI training for all students, faculty, and staff. The newly established Center on Racial and Economic Justice (CREJ) is working to transform the college curriculum.
“We are moving in the right direction,” Hum said.
Students were able to ask questions of the panels, either directly or in the chat channel. Some were specific to the concerns of diverse students, for example, such as a question about what demeanor or level of authenticity is accepted, and others were more specific, such as whether a Black student could successfully practice in a conventional law firm with natural or braided hairstyles.
Moderated by 3L Maddie Miller, president of Associated Students of UC Hastings (ASUCH), current students shared their paths to law school, their passions, and tips for preparing for the experience, including asking for testing accommodations where appropriate, and resources for funding LSAT prep courses.
The student life panel included 2L Vasmer Vang, Co-President of Hastings OUTLAW and the Asian American Bar Association Liaison for Hastings Asian Pacific American Law Students Association; 2L Loren Hampton, Co-President of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA), a Sack Teaching Fellow, LEOP tutor, a Tony Patino Fellow-Elect, and member of the UC Hastings Honor Society; and 3L Anthony Felix, who is Senior Production Editor for the Hastings Law Journal and served as the Admissions Chair for La Raza during his 2L year.
“UC Hastings is working to take the mystery and veil of elitism out of applying to law school,” said Lopez, “and to open the door to qualified candidates who in the past might have felt excluded or unwelcome in the legal profession.”
For access to the complete program, email firstname.lastname@example.org for password-protected content.