Vol. 39 No. 6
By Tonnya Kennedy Kohn
In 2010, the Law Student Division presented its Henry J. Ramsey, Jr. Diversity Award to the SBA of the University of San Francisco (USF) School of Law’s Diversity Committee. The Division recognized the committee for efforts that promoted diversity in thinking and encouraged students to understand how diversity applies in attorney-client interactions.
The Henry J. Ramsey, Jr. Diversity Award, named for the former dean of Howard University, recognizes excellence in improving diversity and advancement within the legal profession. The Division presents the award annually to a student, faculty, administrator, or student organization from an ABA-approved law school.
“The USF Law diversity committee does a fantastic job of promoting dialogue around the otherwise difficult conversations of race, gender, sexuality, social class, and inequality,” says Ben Lewis, USF Law’s SBA president. “This dialogue unifies our student body, creates acceptance and understanding of different perspectives, and ultimately empowers us to be better lawyers.”
Lewis says the school’s commitment to diversity is the primary reason many students, including himself, attend USF Law. “I think this commitment to diversity pervades the law school. We have brilliant faculty who not only teach courses directly pertaining to diversity, but who weave diversity conversations into the core law school curriculum. All of these efforts are driven from the top down.”
The SBA Diversity Committee helped organize a series of diversity events in the spring 2010 semester titled “Forging a Seamless Diversity Pipeline: Pre-law to Practice.” The series included a diversity reception, a speed networking event hosted by the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, an attorney panel focused on working with diverse clients within the estate planning and family law field, a judges of color panel, and a legal career options mixer.
Lewis recommends a school seeking success in diversity consider basing its efforts in its SBA and creating partnership with bar associations, law firms, and judges with demonstrated commitments to diversity.
“For us, I think a critical move was establishing a dedicated Diversity Committee within the Student Bar Association,” he says of the group run by a chair and a handful of committed student leaders. “[And the] partners generously donate their time and resources to help make USF Law a uniquely diverse place to study law.
The Law Student Division’s Diversity Award is a testament to Henry J. Ramsey, Jr. of Howard University for his commitment to issues of inclusiveness and his efforts to increase the quality of the practice and study of the law. The Diversity Award serves to recognize excellence in activities that have contributed toward the achievement and advancement of women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and persons of differing sexual orientation and gender identities.
—Tonnya Kennedy Kohn, a third-year student at the University of South Carolina School of Law, is Student Lawyer’s student editor.