Georgetown Law's Early Outreach Initiative is designed to increase the diversity of the law school applicant pool by reaching out to high school students in under-served communities.
It’s no secret that the legal profession suffers from a lack of diversity. People of color, first-generation college students, people from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and other groups are underrepresented in law. Georgetown Law is working to change this — not only through financial aid, loan forgiveness, and other tried-and-true methods, but through Georgetown’s unique Early Outreach Initiative to high school students from diverse backgrounds.
Starting The Law School Conversation — In High School
Why should one of the nation’s top law schools reach out to high school students? Because for many lawyers, the idea of going to law school first took root while they were high school students. The Association of American Law Schools surveyed thousands of law students about when and how they first considered the idea of law school. Results showed that the seeds were often planted early. Most law students had first considered law school before college. (And over a third had first considered law school before high school.) Black law students were even more likely to have first considered law school prior to college. In most cases, going to law school requires early, pre-college exposure to the idea of law school. But systemic inequality means that people of color, first-generation college students, and socio-economically disadvantaged people are less likely to have such exposure.
Through the Early Outreach Initiative, Georgetown Law’s Dean of Admissions Andy Cornblatt and his law students are providing just those kinds of connections to high school students — putting law school on their radar, introducing high school students to the idea of a legal career, and building long-lasting relationships.
How The Early Outreach Initiative Works
Georgetown Law’s Early Outreach Initiative works with high schoolers in two ways: First, by reaching out directly to individual high schools around the United States, and second, by partnering with national nonprofit organizations who help kids get to (and through) college.
Dean Cornblatt acknowledges the difficulties that COVID-19 has imposed on the program. “But we’re not just making it work,” he says. “We’re taking advantage of the ubiquity of Zoom, for instance, to talk to even more schools, and even more nonprofits, and even more high school kids, from all around the country.” The pandemic’s disparate impacts, says the dean, only underscore the crucial importance of Georgetown Law’s outreach. “And the coronavirus has only increased our resolve to make this program more effective and broaden its reach. There’s just no question. It couldn’t be more clear that this country needs diverse voices in law, policy, and government now more than ever before.”
For the law school’s direct partnerships with individual high schools, Georgetown Law is working with dozens of high schools across the country, from coast to coast and in big cities and rural counties. At each of these high schools, Georgetown Law works with a group of about 25 high school seniors, by visiting with these students three times during their senior year, and staying in contact afterwards.
During the first set of visits, Dean Cornblatt either travels to or Zooms with each participating high school to talk with the 25 seniors, to offer an introduction to the practice of law and law school. “Dean Cornblatt is a dynamic speaker,” says Didier Jean-Baptiste, dean of seniors and college placement at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, and his visit “sparked an interest in law school among [students] who attended his presentation.”
During the second set of visits, current Georgetown Law students either travel to or Zoom with the same high schools, talk with the same groups of seniors, and share their stories — of how they got to Georgetown Law.
For the third set of visits, Georgetown Law plays host at its “High School Law Days.” Originally, Georgetown Law had planned to bring all participating high school seniors to visit the law school in Washington, DC. The visiting high school students were to meet with Georgetown Law faculty and students, visit Capitol Hill, and meet with local attorneys from a range of practice areas. While COVID-19 prevented the high schoolers from traveling to Washington in 2020, Georgetown Law is working on virtual equivalents until such travel can take place again.
And these meetings are just the start. Georgetown Law is connecting participating high school seniors with attorneys from around the country to serve as mentors and points of contact, giving these students guides and advisers during their college years, and further helping them prepare for law school. As one high school senior from Legal Prep Charter Academy remarks, the Early Outreach Initiative is about “lifelong connections that may open up doors in the future for me.” Rather Stanton, Legal Prep’s co-founder, agrees. “Legal Prep is thrilled to partner with Georgetown… This effort will help show over a thousand diverse students each year that the legal profession needs and wants them.”
In addition to working directly with high schools, Georgetown Law also works with nonprofits from around the country who help kids get to and through college. These organizations connect Dean Cornblatt and Georgetown Law’s students with the high schoolers that they serve. The law school tailors its approach to each nonprofit’s needs, but the message remains the same, according to Dean Cornblatt: “There is a path from where these kids sit, right now, to being a lawyer. And we’re here to explain how to navigate that path, to and through college.” The nonprofits and the Early Outreach Initiative amplify one another’s work. “Their focus is on getting kids to college and getting them to do well in college,” says the dean. “Our Early Outreach Initiative shows kids one of the places where college can take them — law school and the law!”
Having now met with around a thousand high school seniors across the country, Dean Cornblatt says that he is struck by their passion and interest in the law. “These kids are engaged and their interest is sparked,” he says. “What was missing before was someone reaching out to these kids, to show them the path forward, to show them that law school can be affordable and can be doable, to show them some ways to get to law school. And now they can see that path.” Nor are the high schoolers the only beneficiaries. “If we want a more diverse legal profession, we need more diverse law schools,” remarks Dean Cornblatt. “But if we want more diverse law schools, we need a more diverse applicant pool. Reaching out early to high schoolers can help get us there.”
Partnering with Schools
Is your high school interested in partnering with Georgetown Law as part of Project 1000? Please fill out a short form with information about your school.
Partnering with Nonprofits
If your organization works with access to higher education and would like to cooperate with Georgetown Law’s Early Outreach Initiative, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support from Firms
Establishing deeper connections between high school students and the legal community is at the heart of Project 1000. Law firms across the country are committing financial support for the first five years of the program, and identifying current associates to mentor program participants. If your firm would be interested in participating, please email us at email@example.com.