Published June 28, 2018
An innovation that has become a tradition – the School of Law’s Discover Law program for promising undergraduates of color – has completed its sixth season.
Discover Law aims to address a continuing challenge for law schools and the legal profession: how to attract and retain talented and diverse applicants and help them succeed in law school and in practice. Advocates call it a pipeline program, because it seeks to increase the pool of potential law students of color.
“Everyone’s reasons for wanting to join the legal profession are different,” notes Kendra Cadogan, UB School of Law’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion, who oversees the program. “Typically students say, ‘I really want to go to law school, and I know this program will give me the tools I need to be a successful applicant and to graduate.’ ”
Eighteen students participated in the program. Many were from New York State, mostly from Western New York and New York City, but there were also students from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Mississippi. They will be college sophomores, juniors and seniors this fall, but for the month of June they experienced the life of a law student, living on campus and taking courses taught by law school professors and instructors.
And they had their work cut out for them. Topics ranged from property to contracts and constitutional law, with a heavy emphasis on legal research and writing, and the skills of oral advocacy. Other classes addressed the practicalities of navigating the law school admissions process and preparing for the LSAT. Students also got out of the classroom to see the justice system in action, including touring the Erie County Holding Center and local law firms.
Discover Law was initiated in 2012 with funding from the Law School Admissions Council, but that initial grant has run out and it’s now entirely funded by donors. “Without the generosity of our donors and campus partners, we would not be able to offer this program,” Cadogan says. “We’re always looking for diverse students and community partners who want to diversity their firm and the legal profession in general. With donor support, we pay for all of the costs associated with housing, room and board, classes and transportation in Western New York. The students are only responsible for their transportation to UB and back home.”
It is an opportunity for the participants to experience the value of a UB School of Law education and the warmth of the law school’s community. “Our vision is that Discover Law will be a feeder program for the law school,” says Cadogan.
Those who have survived the rigors of the program can be its biggest advocates. Case in point: Ninteretse Jean Pierre, who was part of the inaugural Discover Law class, went on to graduate from UB School of Law in 2016 and now handles commercial real estate transactions at the Rochester firm Nixon Peabody.
On a personal level, Jean Pierre says, Discover Law “was really a turning point for me. It gave me the information I needed to get through law school – an understanding of the kind and amount of work and preparation it would take. The intensity of the program prepared me, so in that first week of law school, when everyone was shocked that we had 100 pages of close reading to do, I wasn’t surprised at all.”
“If you’re someone who cares about diversity in the profession, it’s one of the best programs,” Jean Pierre says. “At least six students from my class went on to become lawyers. It has a track record of success – you can see the tangible results.”
Many thanks to our donors, sponsors and volunteers who have helped to make this year’s Discover Law program possible:
University at Buffalo President’s Circle
University at Buffalo President’s Circle
Professor Robert and Ellen Reis
Minority Bar of Western New York Foundation
Richard Griffin ’57 and Dr. Jane Griffin
Karen Kaczmarski ’89
Dennis McCoy ’77 and Beth McCoy
Michael Wolford ’68
Vice Dean for Student Affairs Bernadette Gargano
Hon. Barbara Howe ’80
Prof. Stephanie Phillips
Prof. Rick Su
Lillie Wiley-Upshaw and Benathan Upshaw
Loraine and Jeffrey Yates