Working with a start-up company, increasing diversity at companies, and advocating for clients are some of the goals of the new recipients of the Center for Business Law Scholarships.
UC Hastings law students Lilia Kazemi ‘24 and Sharareh (Sheila) Zerang ‘24 were named this year’s Center for Business Law (CBL) Scholars in March. They are the second wave of scholars in the program that was launched in 2021.
“The CBL Program is a unique program that provides both substantial financial assistance and professional mentorship thanks to CBL’s network of advisors and business-focused alumni,” said Evan Epstein, Executive Director of the Center for Business Law at UC Hastings. The program also helps place scholars with summer internships so they can get experience working in corporate law settings.
“Being interested in business law, Hastings was my top choice,” said Kazemi. She recalled working at a venture capital firm as an officer manager in my undergraduate years. The first in her family to attend college, she said she was inspired to do more, “At the time I didn’t know anything about investing or venture capital. The more I learned, the more interested I became in the start-up ecosystem. Instead of scheduling meetings, I desired to have a seat at the table.”
Zerang, a member of the law school’s LEOP program, like Kazemi, said she is looking forward to the mentorship opportunities that go along with being a CBL Scholar, “I hope to learn from the best legal minds in the industry and have the opportunity to one day pave the way for diverse law students who will come after me.”
The CBL Scholarship program is possible thanks to the support and vision of a group of sponsors, noted Epstein. These include leading business law firms Orrick, Gunderson Dettmer and Freshfields, venture capital firm DCVC, in addition to individual contributions by UC Hastings alumni. Law firms have also provided summer placements for the CBL scholars. Last year’s scholars worked at Orrick, and this summer they will be starting new internships with law firms Wilson Sonsini and Paul Weiss.
Scott James ’13, one of the program’s founders, said the CBL scholarship program will help law students launch successful careers in business law, “We have assembled world-class resources at the CBL, scholars will receive hands-on academic and professional mentorship, support and guidance through each step of their law school career and beyond.”
“The CBL Scholars program isn’t just about access to the business law community – it’s about helping to mentor and bring along future leaders” said Professor Jared Ellias, the Faculty Director of the Center for Business Law. “This is a merit award for very accomplished first-year students. Our mission is to provide a bridge to leadership for people who have so much to offer the business bar, but who otherwise face obstacles that might make it harder for them to build enter the business bar and then to thrive when they get there.”
Kazemi said she is proud to be a law student who hopes to change the landscape of business law firms in the future, “I noticed the lack of diversity in the industry, and I felt an impulse to change that. There are many founders from marginalized communities who simply do not have the resources or guidance to get their companies off the ground. As a business attorney, I will use my knowledge of the law to assist less privileged founders and to become a source of inspiration for other attorneys to do the same.”