On Nov. 21, college students gathered remotely with Fordham Law faculty and students to learn more about law school and the application process after participating in the Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) Thurgood Marshall Legal Educational Opportunity Program.
“CLEO, which just celebrated its 52nd anniversary in November, has a very long, solid history with providing access to opportunity and is a gateway for marginalized students to enter law school,” said Kamille Dean, Fordham Law’s new director of diversity, equity, and inclusion. “For us, to be a part of that legacy is huge, and we are so honored.”
Fordham Law, which has worked with CLEO for nearly 15 years, hosted the last CLEO-led event of the 2020 calendar year. CLEO plays an integral role in the Law School’s Increasing Diversity in Education and the Law (IDEAL) pipeline program, which seeks to engage college students who are interested in pursuing a law degree or who have an interest in the law. IDEAL offers participating students the opportunity to learn about and attend law school and to become leaders on a variety of questions that impact the legal profession such as issues of racial, economic, and social justice.
Students typically visit the Lincoln Center campus for the day, providing a window into how law classes are run and opportunities to speak one-on-one with professors, CLEO alumni, and current law students. This year, they met over Zoom with a handful of Fordham Law professors and administrators.
“The pre-law pipeline is extremely important because there is still a lack of diversity in the legal profession, despite the increased diversity within our country’s demographics,” Dean said. “This year’s virtual CLEO programs provided historically underrepresented college students with models of success to know that a legal career is attainable.”
Freshmen and Sophomores’ Super Saturday
Associate Professor of Law Olivier Sylvain, who teaches legislation and regulation to 1Ls, held a mock law class for 44 freshmen and sophomores. He introduced the students to the process of legal reasoning and legal analysis during his “Interpreting Legislation” lesson. The students engaged in rapid-fire back-and-forth conversations with Professor Sylvain and even questioned one another.
Grissel Seijo ’06 spoke about her everyday life as an employment and labor attorney in Florida and New York. After talking about her day-to-day duties and tasks, case management, and life in the courtroom, she provided her contact information to the students for any follow-up questions or advice.
“The program provides participants with a direct connection to Fordham Law and to individuals in the field who are willing to mentor and help them through their journey to law school—if they choose to follow through with that,” said Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Manager Jennifer Haastrup.
Ted Neustadt ’79, associate director of legal writing at Fordham Law, later taught a reading and writing workshop to 24 students. The most important rule, he says, is to educate the reader with precise language and other key pieces of information.
“These ‘classes’ further develop the students logical reasoning, reading comprehension, and writing skills,” Haastrup said. “They get all of this valuable experience in one day, as opposed to not having it at all.”
Juniors Get Jumpstart with Practice LSAT
Juniors began their Saturday morning with an essay-free, practice LSAT and reconvened to review how the exam is scored and measured. The 32 attendees also learned strategies for approaching LSAT questions and how they can most effectively manage their time in preparation for the exam, thanks to advice from two test prep instructors.
“This is the first time many of the students are taking a practice LSAT,” Haastrup said. “It gives them the opportunity to see where they are now, academically, so they can gauge where they need to be by the time they take the real LSAT.”
One of the day’s key sessions revolved around dissecting law school applications. A mock admissions committee—composed of Fordham Law Director of Admissions Kathryn Espiritu and former Assistant Director of Admissions at New York Law School Jorge Rodriguez—talked about each application’s strengths and weaknesses. The moderators suggested that students should make a spreadsheet of law school application requirements and deadlines, as well as how they should write personal statements that showcase storytelling and reflect individual interest.
Lynda Cevallos, director of pre-law educational activities at CLEO, said the day was another success, which was a testament to Fordham Law and CLEO’s ongoing relationship and history.
“Each segment that was offered throughout the day had invaluable information for the students,” Cevallos said. “For CLEO, the support is invaluable as, without it, we would not be able to have these kinds of pre-law programs for our students. It also gives Fordham Law a chance to showcase their law students, professors, and even alumni.”