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Scholarship Aims to Bring More Diversity to the Law

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Monday, February 21, 2011   

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - According to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than four percent of partners in private law firms come from traditionally under-represented minority groups. A local law firm is trying to change that.

Karen Neal, with the Nashville firm of Bass, Berry and Sims, chairs its Diversity Committee. To encourage African-Americans to pursue legal careers, scholarships to a highly regarded local university are being offered, she says.

"Fisk is such an important institution. It is an historically black college that has played a pivotal role in the development of African-American professionals over more than 100 years."

U.S. Census Bureau data finds African-Americans make up 13 percent of the country's population, and more than 40 percent of all the prisoners in the United States are black. Neal says the lack of diversity in her profession can give the wrong impression to clients in need of legal services.

"The law, as a profession generally across the country, is not as diverse as it could be. We want to do everything we can to assist in developing a pipeline of bright, high-achieving students to go on to practice law."

Fisk University has a committee that handles the scholarships. Students are selected based on an application, their GPA and an essay. According to the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), since 2001, only seven percent of all U.S. law students are black.


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