By Dr. Thomas Darwin
The Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence (LCAE) in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE) launched the DiscoverLaw.org PLUS program on July 13, 2015. This program is a collaborative effort between The University of Texas at Austin and Huston-Tillotson University, funded by a three-year grant from the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC).
The program was designed and is being implemented by a joint UT-HT team, with strong participation from DDCE and the UT Law School. The DiscoverLaw.org PLUS program build team includes Drs. Paul Anaejionu and Lorraine Samuels from Huston-Tillotson, and Drs. Aileen Bumphus, Thomas Darwin, Eric Dieter, and Stella Smith from DDCE. Samuel Riley and Elizabeth Youngdale from the UT Law School have also been deeply involved. Special recognition goes to Suzanne Wallen in DDCE’s Development Office for securing the funding from LSAC.
The purpose of the program is to attract talented students who might not typically consider law school or a career in the legal profession. There is a strong emphasis of students who are under-represented, first generation, and economically disadvantaged. The focus of the program goes well beyond LSAT prep. Students are learning and developing the knowledge and competencies they will need to succeed in law school and in legal professions.
Our inaugural cohort is comprised of 15 rising sophomores and juniors from UT and HT, and they have hit the ground running. Participants are enjoying an intensive program of professional panels, field trips to courts and law offices, and LSAT prep. They are also learning how to do legal analysis and write legal documents, following a complicated case assignment that is exactly like cases assigned to first year law students at UT School of Law. And, they are participating in plenty of fun activities including brain games, “Legal Eagle” movie nights, and lots of pizza.
In Fall 2015, participants will be able to participate in the IE Pre-Grad Internship and be partnered with a law student, and then in the spring, they will have the opportunity to work in conjunction with UT Law School’s legal clinics to directly get involved with community issues and the law.
Given the quality of exchanges and participation in the first week, we fully expect our first cohort to go on and do amazing work in the world of law.