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USC Gould hosts California LAW Pathways 8th annual summit

Leslie Ridgeway • March 7, 2023
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Law practitioners, educators discuss strategies to encourage, support and empower students
USC Gould hosted the California LAW Pathways Summit Feb. 10-11
USC Gould hosted the California LAW Pathways Summit Feb. 10-11 (Photo by Andrew Svistunov)

Civic engagement, diversifying the legal profession and supporting law students and educators with strategic partnerships led the discussions at the California LAW Pathways 8th Annual Summit, hosted by the USC Gould School of Law. The summit – an award-winning pipeline program focused on introducing diverse audiences to the legal field – drew more than 100 students statewide from community colleges and four-year partner universities. It was the first in-person event since 2019.

Notable leaders in politics and the legal profession took part in the event, including U.S. Congressman Lou Correa from California’s 46th Congressional District, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court Tani Cantil-Sakauye (Ret.), American Bar Association President-Elect Mary Smith and California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Their presence underscored the importance of creating pathways to law school for underrepresented or economically challenged prospective students.
Congressman Lou Correa delivers a keynote talk
Congressman Lou Correa delivers a keynote talk (Photo by Andrew Svistunov)

Correa, keynote speaker on the first day of the two-day summit, encouraged the sizable contingent of law students present by telling his own story of immigrating as a child from Mexico to Anaheim, Calif., eventually enrolling at Cal State Fullerton where his counselor responded to his goal of attending law school with gentle skepticism. He wound up at UCLA where he earned a joint JD/MBA with a 3.9 GPA at graduation.

“I just want to emphasize to you, it doesn’t matter where you start,” he said. “Remember you live in the greatest country in the world and never give up … and every time people say you can’t do it, prove them wrong.”
Gould Dean Andrew T. Guzman
Gould Dean Andrew T. Guzman (Photo by Andrew Svistunov)

In opening remarks, USC Gould Dean Andrew Guzman highlighted Gould’s history of supporting a diverse student body, including the school’s first African American graduate in 1904, the first Chinese-American admitted to practice law in California, a law sorority founded in 1912, and being one of the first law schools to establish a program for first-generation students.

“The only way to diversify the legal profession is to diversify the people in law schools,” he said. “The idea of making the legal profession look like the community it serves can’t be achieved [otherwise].”
Ruthe Ashley, Chair, California LAW
Ruthe Ashley, Chair, California LAW (Photo by Andrew Svistunov)

Panel discussions included “The Importance of Civic Engagement for a Healthy Democracy,” “Developing Students Along the Pathway and Ensuring Seamless Transitions,” and insights from both college admissions directors and law school admissions directors. Panelist David Kirschner, associate dean of admissions and financial aid at USC Gould, came away impressed with the students’ eagerness to create connections to help pave their way toward law school.

“Students were very interested in hearing about strategies they can adopt to make themselves the strongest candidates for law school,” he said. “They also showed an eagerness to build relationships with individuals at all steps in legal education, from the admissions officials who make applicant decisions, to practicing attorneys who have dedicated their lives to making the world a more just place.”
Emily Quinlan, California LAW
Emily Quinlan, California LAW  (Photo by Andrew Svistunov)

According to its website, California LAW Pathways was established in 2010 as a nonprofit to develop a pipeline of diverse students from high schools, community colleges, four-year universities and law schools with the goal of diversifying the legal profession in California.

“We are proud of being one of the original six law schools supporting the California LAW Pathway since its creation,” said USC Gould Associate Director of Admissions Brenda Cortez-Martin, who served as a panelist and summit organizer. “It was meaningful to host the summit here at Gould. USC plays a critical role in the Southern California community and beyond, so it was great to welcome so many students, educators and leaders to campus.

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