Lloyd Johnson with his family (L-R): daughter Aja, son Evan, and wife Zenobia Collins Johnson at the First Annual General Counsel Invitational Golf Tournament hosted by MCCA to support the establishment of the Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program.
The Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) is excited to announce the establishment of the Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program. The program is named for MCCA's former executive director, Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr., whose resolve to improve the legal profession and whose tireless diversity efforts in the mid-199 0s resulted in the founding of MCCA® seven years ago. In December 2004, Johnson will resign from the role of chairman of the MCCA Board of Directors, a volunteer leadership position he has held since early 2001.
"When I learned that the MCCA board of directors wished to launch a scholarship program in my honor, I was frankly speechless," Johnson stated, "and those who know me will tell you that it's not often I'm caught without something to say."
Reflecting on the honor and the role he cherishes most, which is being a parent to his two children, Evan, 12, and Aja, 10, Johnson added, "One of the best feelings in the world is to be able to watch the fruits of your labor blossom. I've felt that way about MCCA – for many years, it was like my third child. I'm humbled by the fact that this scholarship program will help future generations of young people to become members of the legal profession."
The scholarship program comes at a time when the diversification of corporate law faces some of its toughest challenges yet. On the one hand, globalization and the general diversification of business challenges corporations to create diverse teams that can manage legal affairs across the country and the globe in order to remain competitive. On the other hand, dwindling federal and university scholarships and programs have made it difficult to attract minorities to the legal profession. Compounding the problem is the fact that for many students of color, successfully tackling the initial hurdles of applying for, being admitted, and financing a legal education may feel like an insurmountable goal.
In March of this year, MCCA had the pleasure of participating on a panel discussion with Karen Britton, Ed. D, director of admissions, financial aid and career services at the University of Tennessee College of Law and immediate past president of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP).
Britton presented a status report on law school admissions and new graduates, reporting that among 2004 applicants for law school, there has been an increasing number of people applying for a very limited number of seats. Citing data compiled by the Law School Admission Council, Britton stated that Asian Americans and Hispanics reported the highest percentage increases among all applicants. In addition, recent NALP statistics show that 48.3 percent of new law graduates are women and 20.2 percent are non-Caucasians. (Source: NALP Class of 2002 Employment Data).
Thus, the current law school landscape is more diverse than it was a decade or so ago. However, the level of inclusion of students of color has a long way to go before approximating the percentage of minorities in the overall U.S. population. "Building a pipeline of diverse legal talent has always been a concern for MCCA," states founder Lloyd Johnson. "Prior to launching the new scholarship program, the organization's emphasis has historically been advocating greater inclusion for those who have already made it into the profession as lawyers. Frankly, it was a question of how to allocate a finite set of resources," Johnson concludes.
The Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program will prime the diversity pipeline by helping law students meet financial needs, such as the payment of tuition, books, and fees in addition to exposing them to a group of leaders in the profession who can help to mentor and guide their early entry into the profession. "We are looking to produce a diverse group of young lawyers who are prepared to lead the profession and to help to reshape it in ways we'll all be proud of," shares Johnson of his vision for the scholarship program.
Successful applicants to the scholarship program, who are reviewed by its Selection Committee, will be outstanding individuals who have been accepted to an accredited U.S. law school, and have demonstrated leadership and an interest in and commitment to diversity. While it is anticipated that many of the recipients will be students of color, the program is open to non-minorities as well. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have had to overcome significant obstacles, or may be among the first in their family to graduate college will be given special consideration. "What we are looking for is outstanding students, who genuinely wish to pursue careers in law and who demonstrate leadership potential, including respect to diversity," Johnson explains.
The members of the Selection Committee have been carefully chosen so that the scholarship program enjoys the guidance of recognized leaders of the profession. It is also anticipated that many of the scholars will have the opportunity to meet and potentially receive mentoring advice from this group of leaders. "I've spoken with several members of the Selection Committee about what I envision this scholarship program to be about. Linda Madrid and I have even coined an acronym to sum it up: KAN – which stands for Knowledge, Access, Networks. Our ‘KAN-do' approach will be designed to address more than a student's basic needs. We seek to open access to doors of knowledge and opportunity that might otherwise remain closed to them, in addition to exposing them to a powerful network of leaders."
MCCA anticipates that 25 or more scholars will be selected each year, for total annual contributions in excess of $250,000. In fact the Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program is already off to a terrific start. The level of financial commitments received since February 2004 currently total well in excess of half a million dollars! A list of the organizations that have pledged their support to the scholarship program appears as a sidebar to this article, and further commitments may be made on an ongoing basis.
Participating organizations are requested to make a three-year financial commitment to be a part of the program. A three-year sponsorship commitment requires a minimum pledge of $30,000 payable in the amount of $10,000 in each of three years. In recognition of the donor organization, the scholar will bear the name of the sponsoring organization, for example, The "ABC Company Scholar" under the Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program.
In addition to the satisfaction derived from helping outstanding students, participating organizations will receive national media coverage, a listing in a congratulatory advertisement in Diversity & the Bar®, access to the scholar/applicant resume database for their own hiring and recruitment needs, VIP participation at a private scholarship awards event, and more!
In fact, several law firms and corporations that were already sponsoring their own law student scholarships have chosen to consolidate all or part of their existing commitments to the new MCCA program, through which they felt they would receive greater national exposure in diverse networks. Participating organizations also received the added benefit of being able to take advantage of MCCA's expanding relationships with U.S. colleges and universities, thus avoiding any need to "recreate the wheel" to continue to produce an individual program.
For information regarding the application process including eligibility requirements, please contact Kimberly Hall, Senior Program Manager, Scholarships & Grants Administration, UNCF 703-205-3443 or email Kimberly.Hall@uncf.org
Veta T. Richardson has been the executive director of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association since January 2001. Prior to joining MCCA, her background includes serving as a vice president of the Association of Corporate Counsel and as a member of the in-house law department of Sunoco, Inc., where she handled securities disclosure, corporate transactions, and governance matters.
From the July/August 2004 issue of Diversity & The Bar®