The Diversity Scholarship Foundation, NFP (“DSF”) is a not-for-profit organization under the Internal Revenue Code. It was established by a group of attorneys and judges committed to the ideal that diverse law school student bodies are a means of ensuring further diversification in the legal community. Although the DSF was formally established in March 2008, its mission had its genesis in 2003, when 17 bar association presidents (including the ISBA) joined together for the first symbolic swearing-in and took an oath to promote the goal of advancing diversity within the Chicago legal community. In subsequent years, the number of participating associations has greatly increased, to where, today, more than 50 associations have joined together to partake in the symbolic swearing-in and pledge to support the increasing need to take concrete steps to diversify the legal community. One of the premier fundraising events of the DSF is the annual Unity Award Dinner, which will be in its ninth year on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 (please note the date change from October 6, 2011). The dinner includes an awards presentation, which recognizes the tireless efforts of individuals who have made significant contributions to the legal community and the community at large, including embracing diversity and the ideals diversity represents.
Throughout the plan year, the DSF offers support to small, medium, and large law firms to become their “diversity partners” and encourages mentoring and recruitment of minority attorneys. As a diversity partner, the DSF will work hand-in-hand with the leadership of these firms to structure and implement a diversity plan of action beyond mere lip service. The DSF’s goal is to assist managing partners or diversity officers in removing barriers and opening avenues of opportunity to under-represented groups—opportunities that, at one time, were accessible to only a select few. This is one offering that we hope you will take to your respective law firms and companies.
Mission of the DSF
The DSF was founded to promote diversity and inclusion by raising awareness of and providing support to the underrepresented sectors of the legal community, including those individuals wanting to pursue a career in the legal field.
While people may question whether such a foundation is still needed and relevant in today’s society, the resounding response is, “Absolutely.” Statistics show that within the legal community, the number of women, minorities and persons with disabilities is disproportionately lower than the overall representation of these groups within the general population. Women make up approximately 28% of the legal workforce. Minorities only comprise approximately 10% of the legal workforce. Although persons with disabilities represent 18% of the national population, they comprise only 3.8% of the entire legal workforce. DSF’s goal is to support and advocate for all minorities and persons with disabilities who wish to explore and pursue a career in the legal field.
In 2003, the Filipino American Bar Association (“FABA”) and the John Marshall Law School recognized and acted on a need to bring together all of the area bar associations to promote diversity within the legal community. With the drive of FABA and the financial support of the John Marshall Law School, the All Bar Swearing-In ceremony and reception was born. From 2003-2005, the John Marshall Law School underwrote the event and the response was overwhelming. In 2006, fueled by their success and lofty goals, FABA and the John Marshall Law School expanded the annual ceremony into the first Unity Award Dinner to claim a broader audience to inspire progress towards diversity and inclusion within the legal community.
In response to the tremendous success of the Unity Award Dinners, the Diversity Scholarship Foundation was established in March of 2008 to receive net proceeds of the annual Unity Award Dinner and to promote diversity in the legal community through scholarships, education, and outreach. At the end of 2008, the FABA board of directors resolved to have the DSF assume the responsibility of the planning and presentation of the annual Unity Award Dinner. With very little funding, the John Marshall Law School continued its financial support in the planning of the 2009 Unity Award Dinner. That year, net proceeds quadrupled and with the help of its dedicated volunteers, the DSF expanded its programming and community outreach.
The DSF relies on its partnerships with bar organizations that participate in the annual Unity Award Dinner to recruit volunteers to assist with its programming and the response is inspiring. As such, an important aspect of its recruitment and inclusion efforts is to bring together leaders and members of the supporting bar organizations. These gatherings are crucial in keeping the interest alive and the DSF mission crystal clear to those who believe that diversity is the right thing to do and not just a lofty notion for marketing purposes.
The Officers of the DSF include Jessica Arong O’Brien (Illinois Department of Revenue), President; Honorable Jesse G. Reyes (Cook County Circuit Court), Vice President; Aurora Abella-Austriaco (Principal, Austriaco & Associates, Ltd.), Treasurer; Associate Dean Rory Smith (John Marshall Law School), Recording Secretary; and Jennifer M. Sender (Partner, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP), Corresponding Secretary. The Board of Directors include William A. Von Hoene, Jr. (Executive Vice President of Finance and Legal, Exelon Corporation) and Honorable Israel A. Diserto (Cook County Circuit Court Judge). Floyd Perkins (Partner, Ungaretti & Harris) serves as the DSF’s General Counsel.
Most recently, the DSF mourned the great loss of one of its board of directors, Jerold Sherwin Solovy. Jerry was DSF’s friend, advocate and mentor. He was the Chairman Emeritus of Jenner & Block, LLP. The DSF would not be where it is today without the support and guidance of Jerry S. Solovy. In 2009, DSF honored Jerry with the Unity Award at our Annual Unity Award Dinner. In 2010, Jerry became a member of our Board of Directors. Due to his tireless fundraising efforts, Jerry became our biggest financial contributor to date. Jerry had already volunteered to co-chair the Unity Award Dinner for 2011 and 2012 with our president. Jerry’s advocacy for women and minorities in the legal profession was one of his many outstanding attributes. His support, friendship and mentoring will forever impact those who were fortunate enough to have known him. Our board is deeply sorrowful for his loss and will vow to continue to accomplish our mission with him in our hearts. To keep his memory alive, we are naming our highest scholarship award in his name, Jerry S. Solovy Diversity Scholarship Award.
Today, DSF offers scholarships, its own programming through panel discussions, programming collaboration with bar organizations, other foundations and law schools on relevant diversity-focused presentations, and community outreach to Chicago public schools, as a means of achieving our goals.
On February 17, 2011, the DSF unveiled the following three scholarships to fuel its diversity pipeline:
• Jerold S. Solovy Diversity Scholarship Award ($5,000)—In gratitude for the outstanding support of diversity in the profession, DSF’s highest scholarship is named after the late Jerold S. Solovy, who served as a dedicated DSF board member after he received the 2009 Unity Award and Co-Chair of the 2010 Unity Award dinner. The Jerold S. Solovy Diversity Scholarship Award ($5,000) is awarded to a law student who actively advocates for diversity within the legal community and engages in pro bono work within the community.
• The Public Interest Advocate Scholarship Award ($3,000) is awarded to a law student who is interested in pursuing a career in public service or who is actively involved with a not-for-profit agency that represents the underprivileged.
• The LSAT Scholarship Award ($2,000) is awarded to an undergraduate student who is actively applying to an accredited law school or is a recent graduate with a four-year degree and is taking the LSAT.
The DSF supports students (from any law school) seeking a career in the legal profession who have maintained a high GPA and are actively participating or supporting diversity related programs.
In 2010, DSF awarded scholarships to: Nelly Montenegro (Law student from University of Illinois School of Law), Angela Snell (Law student from University of Illinois School of Law), Norma Manjarrez (Law student from University of Illinois School of Law), Xiomora C. Angulo (Law Student from Chicago Kent), Pamela Dones (Law Student Loyola School of Law) and Francheska Vargas (Undergraduate student of Allegheny College in New York). They were chosen because of their academic achievements, diverse backgrounds and their work in and around their communities. These students exemplify the very idea that once barriers are removed and opportunities are given, goals and dreams can be attained.
Finally, the DSF is pleased to announce the establishment of its newest scholarship fund for law students with disabilities (an award of at least $500). This scholarship was truly a creation of love. Attorney Stacy J. Campbell, an Associate with Hinshaw & Culbertson, has devoted considerable time and energy in volunteer efforts for persons with disabilities. Stacy was one of the founding members and the first President of the John Marshall Law School’s Disability Law Organization (the first of its kind in the Chicago area). Because of her passion to advocate for persons with disabilities, Stacy and her fiancé, George F. Viamontes, have generously donated the funds to establish this permanent scholarship with a commitment to fund the scholarship for two years. Additionally, with a wedding set for October of this year, Stacy and George will be inviting their guests to make donations to this scholarship fund in lieu of traditional wedding gifts. The DSF is extremely grateful to Stacy and George’s generosity of spirit in helping the DSF celebrate the richness of diversity of the legal profession by ensuring a pipeline for lawyers with disabilities.
Another aspect of the DSF’s mission is presenting and sponsoring programs to educate our profession on the importance of diversity and inclusion, and programs to assist lawyers who are women, minorities and persons with disabilities to achieve their fullest potential within the legal community.
The DSF presented complimentary and sold-out open forums addressing issues for women in the legal field, including Women Partners & Women in Senior Corporate Management and Women Running for Public Office.
• “Women Partners & Women in Senior Corporate Management” featured distinguished practitioners: Deirdre C. Drake, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, Harris, NA; Sharon A. Hwang, Shareholder, McAndrews Held & Malloy Ltd.; Gail H. Morse, Partner, Jenner & Block LLP; Joyce E. Tucker, Vice President, Global Diversity and Employee Rights, The Boeing Company: Rosa M. Tumialan, Member, Dykema Gossett PLLC; and Anna S. Wildermuth, Founder, Personal Images, Inc. The panelists described their unique experiences in attaining their current positions, including the obstacles and challenges in their career paths and balancing work and family. The participants were also engaged in an open discussion about diversity in the work place and its impact on achieving career goals.
• “Women Running for Public Office” featured Stephanie D. Neely, Treasurer, City of Chicago; Dorothy Brown, Clerk, Circuit Court of Cook County; Robin Kelly, former Chief of State to the State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and candidate for State Treasurer; Sheila Simon, Professor of Law, Southern Illinois University School of Law and now, Lieutenant Governor for the State of Illinois; and Janice D. “Jan” Schakowsky, Congresswoman, 9th District of Illinois. Aurora Abella-Austriaco moderated the panel discussion. Each of the panelists spoke about their own experiences in seeking a career in public service. Based on the lessons they learned in their journeys to public office, the panelists offered insights into the challenges they faced and advice for those considering running for office. The discussion concluded with an overview of the progress women and minorities have made in the last decade.
For calendar year 2011, the DSF will be focus on offering programming for judges, lawyers and law students with disabilities. The DSF has created a specific committee to (1) increase awareness of the issues judges and lawyers with disabilities face in their respective careers, including accommodation challenges; and (2) encourage attorneys to engage in pro bono work to assist persons with disabilities.
Programming Collaboration with Bar Organizations/Law Schools and DSF’s Financial Support of Diversity-Focused Presentations
The DSF is continually seeking to collaborate with and offer financial support to other bar organizations and foundations to promote diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.
• The DSF recently co-hosted “Winter Chill” an all-bar event with over twenty diverse bar organizations. Representatives from participating bar organizations enjoyed a chance to network and mingle with other professionals from diverse backgrounds.
• In support of the Illinois Judicial Council, the DSF financially sponsored a panel discussion held at DePaul Law School entitled “Road to the Robe Boot Camp.” In collaboration with minority bar organizations (Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago, Puerto Rican Bar Association, Cook County Bar Association, and the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association among others), the event provided practical information to women and minority students and lawyers about becoming a judge.
• The DSF financially supported a symposium and reception with the ISBA Standing Committee on Women and the Law and the Standing Committee on Racial/ Ethnic Minorities and the Law entitled, “ISBA on Self-promotion for the Young/New Woman or Minority Attorney.”
• At the request of the Illinois Judicial Council, the DSF co-sponsored its “Travel Exhibits” at all Circuit Courts showing the progress of the Circuit Courts in electing and appointing minority judges.
• The DSF sponsored a minority student’s attendance John Marshall Law School’s LEAP (Legal Education Access Program), which is a program for junior and senior college minority students interested in pursuing a legal career. This “pipeline” program encourages diversity in the legal profession by inspiring students from groups historically under-represented in the law to become lawyers.
• In support of the Illinois Judicial Foundation, the DSF contributed funds towards a minority externship program, which is being implemented in conjunction with the American Bar Association.
Another element of the DSF’s mission is its CPS Outreach program. This popular program reaches out to middle and high school students attending diverse schools within the Chicago Public School system. DSF representatives and members of bar organizations that participate in the annual Unity Award dinner speak directly to these students about their own experiences in choosing a career in law and how to overcome discrimination and stereotypes while encouraging them to pursue their dreams. To date, this outreach program has touched over 500 students around the Chicago area. This year, the DSF is planning to visit Amundsen High, Hyde Park Academy and Jones College Preparatory School. The students are always engaging and find the experience inspiring. Those professionals who participate in this program walk away with a sense of hope for our future generations.
DSF is working tirelessly to promote its mission and aspires to be the premier organization that supports and maintains high standards for diversity within the legal community. It has recently formed two committees: scholarship and disability programming. Co-chairs for the Scholarship Committee are: Frederick Agustin, President of the FABA, Michele M. Jochner, Executive Board Chair, Phi Alpha Delta, Chicago Alumni Chapter, Shelia C. Riley, Deputy General Counsel, Illinois Department of Children & Family Services, and Enrique Abraham, Immediate Past President of the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois. Co-chairing the Disability Programming committee are Stacy J. Campbell, Associate, Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP, Hon. Nicholas T. Pomaro (Ret) and Jennifer M. Sender, Corresponding Secretary, DSF. Judge Pomaro is the Director of the Kane Legal Clinic located at the Chicago Lighthouse. The clinic provides free legal services to blind or visually impaired people. Judge Pomaro himself has had an incredible and inspirational story. He has been blind since age six. While in law school, he was told that he could never be a trial attorney. Against all odds, Judge Pomaro worked as an assistant Cook County state’s attorney until he rose to the bench. Her retired in 2005. DSF is honored to have Judge Pomaro co-chair this newly-established committee.
The DSF Board will also consider forming an advisory council during its upcoming April board meeting, as well as a partnership with a national foundation with a mission of also diversifying the legal community. There are many exciting plans of growing the foundation in furtherance of the DSF’s mission. If any ISBA members are interested in becoming a part of any of the DSF committees, the DSF Board members are only a phone call away. The DSF appreciates the continued support of the ISBA leadership and members and looks forward to creating with you a rich and diverse legal profession. Please visit our Web site at <>. ■