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Community Colleges Become a Staging Ground for Aspiring Lawyers

By AACC Staff

New program gives low-income and minority students a gateway to the legal profession through community colleges.

Ask five community college students to list their top career ambitions and you’ll likely receive five different answers: nurse, information technologist, bio-technologist, chef, paralegal — the list goes on.

But lawyer? Even with the many new program and transfer options offered on community college campuses, pre-law is not something on which the nation’s network of two-year career and technical colleges stakes its reputation.

That may be about to change, based on an initiative unveiled recently in California. Dubbed the Community Colleges Pathway to Law School, the partnership between 24 state community colleges and six California-based law schools was created to help attract more low-income and minority students to a graying profession that has long struggled with diversity.

“We know that our community colleges have the diversity and talent that the state bar seeks to enhance the diversity pipeline into the legal profession, as evidenced by many prominent judges and lawyers who attended community colleges,” California State Bar CEO Joseph Dunn said about the program.

Students who enroll in the initiative will be required to complete courses aligned with a series of “success factors,” or skills, deemed important to a successful legal career.

In an article in AACC’s CC Daily, reporter Ellie Ashford describes a program that also includes individual support from participating law schools, financial aid advice, help with LSAT test prep and even application-fee waivers for law school admission.

Supporters of the initiative, sponsored by the State Bar of California’s Council on Access and Fairness and the California Community Colleges, say the program should help improve diversity in a profession that is increasingly out of touch with the communities it serves. While minorities make up 60 percent of California’s overall population, CC Daily reports that only about 20 percent of the lawyers in the state are minorities.

“It became very obvious to me as we were talking about how to build the pipeline that community colleges have to be a part of it because we are so diverse,” said Thuy Thi Nguyen, general counsel for the Peralta Community College District, which has two colleges participating in the program.

Want to learn more about the program, the participating colleges and the plans to take the initiative statewide? Check out our full story on CC Daily.  

AACC Staff

contributed to this report.

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