Exciting news—the ISBA is embarking on a significant venture to diversify the future legal community in Illinois. Members of the ISBA Diversity Pipeline Standing Committee have taken the lead to establish a pilot program for an Illinois Law & Leadership Institute in Chicago this summer. An appointed subcommittee has worked diligently since the June 2010 Annual Meeting when ISBA members Stephan Blandin and Rory Smith first suggested that Illinois emulate the Ohio Law & Leadership Institute, created and driven by that state’s bar association and Supreme Court.
The subcommittee has met numerous times since June to refine the mission, design a curriculum, formulate a budget, and most recently hire a director. Under the good auspices of Associate Dean Rory Smith, the John Marshall Law School has agreed to host the pilot program at its facility from June 21 through July 8, 2011. The ISBA and the Illinois Bar Foundation, through the M. Denny Hassakis Fund, have agreed to make a one-time contribution of $37,500 to run the three-week pilot program for 40 disadvantaged minority eighth-grade graduates. It is the expectation and hope of the ISBA in collaboration with the Illinois legal community, that this initial pilot program will expand to a statewide initiative of intensive summer programs and regular Saturday programming during the school year. The summer Institute is designed to assist and encourage the pursuit of a career in law. The curriculum will feature programs on reading, writing, critical legal analysis, problem solving, civics, visits to courthouses and law offices, and leadership training.
A steering committee was appointed by ISBA President Mark Hassakis and is comprised of Stephan Blandin, Sam Finklestein, Annemarie Kill, Paula Lucas, Prof. Alice Noble-Allgire, Chipo Nyambuya, Dean Rory Smith, Dean Francine Soliunas and myself. Our Program Director is Beth Bulgeron, a lawyer and educator, with experience in K-12 outreach program development.
Following the initial program in Chicago, our current plan is to identify a feasible structure to make the program permanent and to actively seek the support of ISBA lawyers throughout the state to maintain and expand the program throughout Illinois.
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