Despite decades of slow progress, women lawyers, lawyers with disabilities and lawyers from racial, ethnic and sexual minorities are persistently underrepresented in the legal field, as shown by annual surveys by organizations like the American Bar Association and National Association for Law Placement.

Increasingly, however, law schools , law firms and nonprofits are actively addressing the challenges of minority applicants. Some law schools and organizations have created special fellowships and programs to meet the needs of such applicants.

Last year, for example, the Legal Education Access Pipeline , also known as LEAP, began providing fellows in Southern California with free resources such as weekly application workshops, mentorship by law students and lawyers, LSAT test prep classes and access to diverse legal professionals. In August, the program will begin accepting applications for its second cohort from law school applicants who are first-generation, have experienced socioeconomic disadvantage, are students of color or who identify as LGBTQ.

[ See: U.S. News Law School Diversity Index. ]

LEAP founder Cindy Lopez explains that diversity in law school enhances both legal education and the legal system. Studies have shown that more diverse groups of people are better able to generate ideas and solve problems than homogenous groups. Engaging with students and professors with different life experiences equips all law students with a broader range of perspectives and interpersonal skills required to thrive in diverse work settings.

Lopez’s own experience as a deputy attorney general in California for three decades showed her the importance of diversity within the legal system. “Legal clients, criminal or corporate, want to look across the room and see that people understand them,” Lopez says. “If they look across the room and everyone looks the same, it’s not going to be a just society.”

Thus, applicants from underrepresented backgrounds not only belong in law school, but will ultimately strengthen the legal field. Nevertheless, they may feel uniquely alienated and overwhelmed. No one finds law school easy , but it can be more difficult for those with fewer relevant role models.

Lopez offers four key points of law school advice for aspiring lawyers from underrepresented backgrounds:

— Access resources.— Find […]

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