Wednesday, September 30, 2009
California Bar Foundation Awards $250,000 in Scholarships and Grants
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The California Bar Foundation said yesterday that it is awarding $250,000 in scholarships and grants to law students and aspiring public interest lawyers.
The nonprofit organization said 23 students from eight California law schools will receive a total of $130,000 in funding through its Diversity Scholarship Program, while $120,000 in scholarships will be given to 28 students from 12 law schools through its Public Interest Scholarship Program.
The foundation will present the awards—up to $7,500 per student—at a reception tomorrow at Bingham McCutchen’s San Francisco offices featuring California Supreme Court Justice Carlos R. Moreno.
The Diversity Scholarship Program was launched last year and aims to help bolster the pipeline of diverse individuals entering the legal profession. Awards are intended to alleviate the significant financial burden of attending law school, which can leave recent graduates more than $100,000 in debt, and provide confidence-boosting recognition to law students during their crucial first year, the foundation said.
Recipients, who come from communities underrepresented in the legal profession, were selected from a competitive pool of more than 200 applicants based on academic excellence, financial need and commitment to the community.
The top 13 awards are named after law firms and corporations that have made multi-year commitments, including $10,000 gifts this year.
These firms include Buchalter Nemer; Fenwick & West; Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin; Girardi | Keese; Keesal, Young & Logan; Keker & Van Nest; Lim Ruger; Morrison & Foerster; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker; Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal; Southern California Edison; and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
State Bar President Howard B. Miller, a partner at Girardi | Keese, said that “California’s lawyers do not currently reflect the wonderful diversity of the state’s population,” and called his firm’s sponsorship of the program “an investment in the future of the legal profession and its ability to meet the needs of clients in an increasingly global economy.”
The Public Interest Scholarship Program began in 1992, and makes awards to assist with tuition and related education expenses for recipients nominated by their law schools who demonstrate a commitment to public service, academic excellence and financial need.
Winners of this year’s award include aspiring public defenders, former social workers, grassroots activists, human rights advocates, and students who have volunteered with various legal aid clinics and other nonprofit organizations.
Five of the top awards are named after sponsoring law firms which have made multi-year commitments, including $10,000 gifts this year. The firms include Cox, Castle & Nicholson; Fulbright & Jaworski; Milstein, Adelman & Kreger; Munger, Tolles & Olson; and Seyfarth Shaw.
A sixth top award—named in honor of the Foundation’s founding executive director, Jim Pfeiffer—recognizes one scholar who has demonstrated a deep commitment to children’s issues. Now in its fourth year, the award is funded through multi-year commitments by a group of Pfeiffer’s longtime friends and colleagues.
Foundation President Mario Camara, a partner at Cox, Castle & Nicholson, said that supporting the scholarship program was “a critically effective way to encourage aspiring public interest lawyers to continue their education.”
He added that the foundation was “privileged to join with the efforts of many prominent California law firms to help these future lawyers as part of the Foundation’s efforts to ensure meaningful access to quality legal services for all Californians.”
Since the Public Interest Scholarship Program’s inception, the foundation has awarded more than $2.4 million in scholarships to more than 550 students attending 27 California law schools.
Founded in 1990 and affiliated with the State Bar of California, the California Bar Foundation describes itself as “committed to building a better justice system for all Californians” and annually awards grants to California organizations conducting innovative law-related projects and scholarships to outstanding California law students.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company