The Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program’s Inaugural Class Graduates from Law School and Enters the Legal Profession
Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr.
This fall, the legal profession will welcome the inaugural class of 17 Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program Fellows and Scholars as they graduate from law school and begin their legal careers. The multitalented students will join the nation’s major law firms; two students will serve as judicial law clerks. From New York to Ohio to California, the positions span the country. Several students parlayed their summer clerkships into offers of permanent employment. (See below for a complete list of employment and geographic locations.) According to the National Association of Law Placement, minorities account for 5.40 percent of partners and 18.07 percent of associates in the nation’s major law firms. Minority women constitute a mere 1.65 percent of partners and 10.07 percent of associates in the nation’s major law firms.
According to the National Association of Law Placement, minorities account for 5.40 percent of partners and 18.07 percent of associates in the nation’s major law firms. Minority women constitute a mere 1.65 percent of partners and 10.07 percent of associates in the nation’s major law firms.
Established in 2005, the Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program was founded to address pipeline challenges, expose students to leaders who would serve as mentors and role models, and ultimately increase the number of diverse attorneys. The program was named after Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr., a visionary leader 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. Students also receive professional development support such as career counseling, cover letter and resume review, interview tips, and assistance securing paid summer internship opportunities.
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.
The inaugural class of students represents the vast diversity of our great nation and reflects the much sought-after American dream. From mobile homes to metropolitan high-rises, from Native American reservations to rural southern enclaves, these exceptional Fellows and Scholars come from every walk of life and have overcome substantial challenges. No matter how unique their backgrounds, the students share a common goal of creating a brighter, more equitable future for themselves, their families, their communities, and the legal profession.
The inaugural class of students represents the vast diversity of our great nation and reflects the much sought-after American dream.These exceptional Fellows and Scholars come from every walk of life, overcoming substantial challenges in their life.
The students were selected through a highly competitive application process. They were chosen based on their academic records, financial need, and a series of personal statements.
Gerron L. McKnight, a Sara Lee Corporation Fellow, fondly recalls receiving the Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Fellowship during his first year at Indiana University School of Law. “It easily stands out among my favorite memories of the past three years. I still remember returning from class and finding the congratulatory letter under my door. In fact, a copy of the letter is still on my refrigerator.”
Says McKnight, “I never thought I’d say this, but I’m a little sad that I’ll graduate in May. Before coming to law school I believed that the experience was just a means to an end, and I’d be so much happier after it was over. Yet, I’ve met so many dynamic individuals and have so many fond memories of Indiana University that I know I’ll look back at the past three years and smile. That being said, throughout my life I’ve always been pleasantly surprised to find that change tends to be for the better, and I’m ready to move on to the practice of law and see just how much better my life is going to get. Preparing for and taking the bar exam likely won’t fall into the category of my favorite memories, but time seems to move so fast that I can’t help but think that in the blink of an eye that whole process will be over soon.” This fall, McKnight will join Frost Brown Todd LLC in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he also spent last summer.
Samuel Roe, a DOAR Litigation Consulting Fellow, also has fond memories of the scholarship program. “Attending MCCA’s Northeast Dinner in New York in November 2005 to receive recognition as an MCCA Fellow is an event that I will never forget. Moreover, as the first person in my family to go to graduate school, let alone law school, I feel extremely honored to graduate from New York University School of Law.” This fall, Roe will join Lowenstein Sandler PC in Roseland, N.J. He spent last summer with the firm.
According to J. Steve Franco, a Microsoft Corporation Fellow, MCCA helped him gain insight into corporate law departments. “MCCA has provided me with endless opportunities. I’ve had the honor of meeting incredible attorneys at General Electric, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart, just to name a few, and they have provided me with continuous guidance and moral support.”
Franco is astounded at how swiftly the years have passed since he sat in his first law school classroom.
“My time at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law has molded me into a more mature individual. Although law school presented me with obstacles and pressures, it also forced me to confront and surpass them. I am a stronger person today than I was three years ago. Although I am merely months away from completing the three most rigorous academic years of my life, I find myself anxiously waiting for what lies ahead.” Franco spent last summer as a law clerk in the Office of the County Counsel, Alameda County in Oakland, Calif. He has not yet accepted an offer of permanent employment.
According to Nathan Perez, a King & Spalding LLP Scholar, the mentoring relationships from both the MCCA staff and MCCA’s founder, Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr., have been invaluable. “I’ve never felt more than a phone call away from getting trusted real-world advice: where to practice, what to practice, how to maintain a work/life balance, etc. The practice of law is so much about relationships. MCCA understands that when you take bright, qualified people and allow them to bounce ideas off of each other, the sky is the limit.” Upon graduation from Harvard Law School, Perez will join Goodwin Procter LLP in Boston, Mass. He spent last summer at the firm.
Emily Liu, a Pfizer, Inc. Fellow, looks forward to the start of her legal career. “After years of hard work from elementary school to college and then to the University of Michigan Law School, I feel like I have been preparing for this moment. It is exciting to be a part of tomorrow’s leaders!” Liu accepted a position with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP’s New York office. She spent last summer at the firm.
Martha I. Casillas, a Fulbright & Jaworski LLP Scholar, agrees that hard work is a critical component of success. “It’s a great feeling knowing that I worked through Redondo Union High School, Harvard College, and the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law to arrive at this destination. It’s a great feeling knowing that I am about to reach the top rung of the ladder in beginning my legal career. But even greater is the knowledge that I will be in a position to help people like myself, women and people of color.”
According to Casillas, MCCA’s scholarship program afforded her an opportunity to work in a large law firm, train with excellent attorneys and share her own distinct skills with the firm. After working two summers at Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, she accepted a position with the firm’s Los Angeles office. “The support I have received at Fulbright is amazing, and I know that I will accomplish great things there,” Casillas says.
In a thank-you letter to MCCA’s founder, Maria Jones, a Microsoft Corporation Fellow, summarized the role Johnson has played in her life: “As I near the completion of law school I want to tell you how much you have impacted my life. As you may recall, when I started school I was lacking confidence. With your encouragement and support, a few short years later, I have accomplished so much. I’m now an editor on law review, externing for a federal district judge, have worked for Microsoft and met Bill Gates, and was hired by a major international law firm. You have guided me in the right direction career wise, but more importantly in my everyday life. My successes are your successes and I hope that I have made you proud. Words can never truly express how much you mean to me.”
MCCA is proud of its inaugural class of Fellows and Scholars, and we are confident that they will make a meaningful contribution to the legal profession. DB
|HEIDY M. ABREU
Cornell Law School, Microsoft Corporation Fellow, Ropes & Gray LLP (Boston, Mass.)
|MARIA E. JONES
University of California, Hastings College of the Law, Microsoft Corporation Fellow, Reed Smith LLP (Los Angeles, Calif.)
|ANDREA V. ARIAS
Emory University School of Law, Adorno & Yoss LLP Scholar, Honorable Cecilia M. Altonago, U.S. District Judge, Southern District of Florida (Miami, Fla.)
University at Michigan Law School, Pfizer, Inc. Fellow, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP (New York, N.Y.)
Cornell Law School, AstraZeneca Fellow, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP (New York, N.Y.)
|BENDITA C. MALAKIA
Harvard Law School, Baker & McKenzie Scholar, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP (Washington, D.C.)
|CHASTITY E. BEDONIE
University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Fellow, Akin, Gump, Straus, Hauer & Feld LLP (Washington, D.C.)
|GERRON L. McKNIGHT
Indiana University School of Law, Sara Lee Corporation Fellow, Frost Brown Todd LLC (Cincinnati, Ohio)
|THEODORE R. BYNUM III
Washington University School of Law, Meritas, Inc. Fellow, Husch & Eppenberger LLC (St. Louis, Mo.)
|BRENDA K. PACOULOUTE Washington University School of Law, Abbott Laboratories/The Boeing Company Fellow|
|MARTHA I. CASILLAS
University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP Scholar, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Harvard Law School, King & Spalding LLP Scholar, Goodwin Procter LLP (Boston, Mass.)
University of Washington School of Law, Wheeler, Trigg & Kennedy LLP Scholar, Honorable Richard B. Sanders, Justice, Washington State Supreme Court (Olympia, Wash.)
|TIMOTHY L. REED
University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, Principal Financial Group Foundation Scholar, Morrison & Foerster LLP (San Francisco, Calif.)
|J. STEVE FRANCO
University of California, Hastings College of Law, Microsoft Corporation Fellow
New York University School of Law, DOAR Litigation Consulting Fellow, Lowenstein Sandler PC (Roseland, N.J.)
|TARIK A. GAUSE
Georgetown University Law Center, DuPont Company Fellow Part-time student, graduation expected in 2009
|EBONY A. SMITH Georgetown University Law Center, Collier Shannon & Scott, PLLC Scholar, Lehman Brothers (New York, N.Y.)|
Permanent employment is in bold.
Naomi K. McLaurin, Esq., is the managing director for MCCA’s Southeast Region in Atlanta, Ga.
From the May/June 2008 issue of Diversity & The Bar®