The Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program (Scholarship Program) welcomes its third class of law students. Established in 2005 to increase the number of diverse attorneys, the program is currently supporting 55 students. The scholarship program was named after Lloyd M. Johnson Jr., a visionary leader in the legal profession and founder of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA).
The program helps law students meet basic needs, such as tuition, books and fees. Fellows receive $10,000 a year for three years to help defray the cost of law school. Scholars receive a one-time award of $10,000 to assist with their first-year expenses. In the three years since the program was launched, MCCA has awarded more than 30 fellowships and more than 20 scholarships.
Sponsors rely on MCCA, a leader in the legal profession, and the United Negro College Fund, one of the nation’s most respected and experienced scholarship administrators, to affiliate the best and brightest law students with their companies. In recognition of the donation, each award bears the name of the sponsoring organization; for example, the Microsoft Corporation Fellowship under the Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program.
Applicants to the scholarship program must have a financial need, must be outstanding students who have been accepted to an accredited U.S. law school, and must have demonstrated leadership and an interest in and commitment to diversity. Applications are reviewed by a Selection Committee consisting of many of the nation’s top lawyers and executives.
According to the American Bar Association, in 2006, minorities comprised 21.6% of total law school enrollment and 22.3% of first-year enrollment.1 According to the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), minorities account for 5.4% of partners and 18.07% of associates in the nation’s major law firms. Minority women constitute a mere 1.65% of partners and 10.07% of associates in the nation’s major law firms.2
Lovita T. Tandy, a partner at King & Spalding LLP, looks forward to the selection process each year. “We all know about the serious pipeline issues facing the profession; reviewing the applications each year gives me renewed hope. It is heartwarming to receive that binder each year and review application after application from talented students who continue to choose law as their profession. The program provides invaluable opportunities and funding to some our nation’s brightest law students.”
MCCA’s support of the students’ professional development and advancement is a key component of the scholarship program. The support includes career counseling, cover letter and resume review, and sessions on interview tips and exam-taking techniques. MCCA also conducts Web-based seminars on topics such as “How to Have a Successful Summer Experience” and “How to Write Effective Legal Memoranda.” In addition, MCCA meets with students and offers individual career development advice. “Although the financial contribution to my education is substantial, I have also gotten so much more out of this program,” says Lisa Gonzalo, Groom Law Group Fellow. “MCCA regularly monitors my progress, provides various networking and business opportunities, and actively seeks to help us secure summer employment.” Gonzalo is a second-year student at Fordham University School of Law.
American Airlines provides air transportation so the students can attend MCCA’s Diversity Dinners, Continuing Legal Education Expo and Creating Pathways to Diversity® Conference. At the events, the scholarship recipients are introduced to their sponsors and to other attorneys in MCCA’s vast network of supporters. Jerome Coenic-Taylor, a Vault, Inc. Fellow, attended the November 2007 Anniversary Dinner and Eighth Annual Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference in New York City. “I was exposed to hundreds of successful, diverse attorneys and attended programs that really gave a broad perspective on my future career in the legal profession,” says Coenic-Taylor. “The networking session was the most helpful program. I met a number of people by applying the techniques that I learned.” Coenic-Taylor is a first-year student at the University of Iowa College of Law.
MCCA also encourages and facilitates the establishment of mentoring relationships with sponsoring organizations and MCCA’s network of supporters. Emily Liu, a Pfizer, Inc. Fellow and third-year student at the University of Michigan Law School, sums it up this way: “Throughout my journey as a law student, I’ve learned that one of the most powerful tools to success is a set of great mentors. Some of my best mentors have come from this scholarship program. The program has exposed me to individuals who have made significant contributions to the legal profession while paving the way for diverse individuals to follow in their footsteps. For example, Sandra Phillips, senior vice president and associate general counsel at Pfizer, Inc., serves as a role model and mentor to me.”
Like Liu, Lisa Gonzalo also has established mentoring relationships as a direct result of the scholarship program. “In addition to their generous financial commitment to my education,” Gonzalo says, “the Groom Law Group has followed through on a personal level. Several attorneys stay in contact with me and act as mentors while I progress through law school. The benefits that I receive from this program not only help me as a law student but will serve me well later as I transition into practice.”
When it comes to mentoring, Lloyd M. Johnson’s motto is “Each one reach one.” Johnson says that he hopes to establish a significant connection with the three or four students who are geographically accessible through face-to-face meetings and with the other students via email. Heidy Abreu, a Microsoft Corporation Fellow, will graduate from Cornell Law School in 2008. When, like many students, she was unsure about what her next step should be, she called Johnson. “Despite his busy schedule,” Abreu says, “he always took the time to listen to my concerns and provide invaluable advice and help.” Johnson says, “I try to help the students understand that they do have an angel who is looking out for them; and that angel is the MCCA networking family.”
The Summer Internship Program is another key component of the scholarship program. MCCA provides scholarship recipients with information about paid corporate internship opportunities in the hope that their first-year summer experience will be a positive one. Feedback about the internship program from students and sponsoring organizations has been quite positive. “The Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program opened doors where they otherwise would have been shut,” says John Oh, a Crowell & Moring LLP Fellow. “I was offered several interviews with Fortune 500 companies based upon my status as a scholarship recipient.” Oh is a second-year student at Boston College Law School.
Sandy Brown, a senior attorney and manager of Microsoft’s Legal Intern Program, is pleased with the students. She says, “We have had the pleasure to work with several of the scholarship recipients as part of Microsoft’s Legal and Corporate Affairs Intern Program, and our company has benefited from their talent, passion and commitment to excellence. Microsoft is both inspired by and proud to participate in this invaluable program.”
Working with Microsoft Corporation as a legal intern afforded Willie White an opportunity to enhance his legal skills while gaining a greater understanding of what it means to be an attorney and to practice law. “Most of all,” White says, “I’ve built lasting relationships with Microsoft’s magnificent attorneys and staff that will last a lifetime.” White is a Microsoft Corporation Fellow and a second-year student at North Carolina Central University School of Law.
When Melanie N. Baptiste, an Adorno & Yoss, LLP Scholar, was seeking a summer associate position in Atlanta, MCCA reached out to McGuireWoods LLP. The firm was so impressed with Baptiste that it offered her a job. Gordon R. Alphonso, a partner in the firm’s Atlanta office, gave Baptiste one of her first assignments. Says Alphonso, “[Melanie] is a very intelligent person whose work ethic is as strong as any I have observed. She did a phenomenal job and definitely possesses the qualities and characteristics necessary to be a successful lawyer.” Baptiste is a second-year student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Shannon L. Wilson, a King & Spalding LLP Scholar, spent the summer at the firm’s Atlanta office. Lovita T. Tandy, who oversees the firm’s diversity efforts, says, “For our firm, working with the scholars is one of the most important benefits of this program. We have participated in minority 1L hiring programs for more than a decade and view the program as an invaluable opportunity to provide minority law students with a quality summer associate experience that they can add to their resume and leverage into future employment.” Wilson is a second-year student at New York University School of Law.
In the spring of 2008, MCCA’s inaugural class of 17 fellows and scholars will graduate from law school and enter a profession that anxiously awaits them. Sandy Brown says, “Microsoft has been honored to be an inaugural sponsor of the Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program. MCCA has created and delivered on a successful formula, which gives sponsors the opportunity to develop lasting relationships with these students to help them economically and professionally.”
For Martha Casillas, a Fulbright & Jaworski LLP Scholar and third-year student at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, being in the inaugural class is a bittersweet experience. She says, “It’s a sweet feeling because I’m proud to be part of the legacy of the scholarship program, to have kicked it off, to reflect the success of the program and look to future recipients to continue that success. It’s a bitter feeling because having received this scholarship in 2005 makes me think of all of the people years before me who could have benefited, who could have made a difference had they received the opportunity I have received. But because I can’t go back in time, I am committing myself to ensuring that the program is even more successful in years to come, to reach more students and reach more corporations.”
Reflecting on the scholarship program’s three years in existence, MCCA’s founder, Lloyd M. Johnson Jr., says, “Most people rarely get the opportunity to see how they’ve impacted the life of just one person. Through the program and on a number of different levels, I’ve been able to observe the significant impact the scholarship program and MCCA have had on the students. This is humbling on one level and surreal on another.”
To learn more about the scholarship program, visit: https://www.mcca.com/programs/scholarship-program/. DB
Naomi K. McLaurin is the managing director for MCCA’s Southeast Region in Atlanta, GA.
- February 21, 2007 News Release titled “Law School Enrollment Edges Upward, Minorities Show Slight Gain, Women Slight Drop” www.abanews.org
- November 1, 2007 Press Release titled “Minority Women Still Underrepresented in Law Firm Partnership Ranks—Change in Diversity of Law Firm Leadership Very Slow Overall” www.nalp.org
From the January/February 2008 issue of Diversity & The Bar®