Ahead of the new academic year, 25 students from the incoming 1L class joined the Law School’s Realizing Excellence and Access in the Law (REAL) Scholars program. Made possible through the generous support of Eric Grossman ’93 and with mentorship/event support from Jones Day, the program expands opportunities for first-year law students from historically underrepresented communities including first-generation college or law backgrounds. REAL helps diverse students feel prepared, confident, and welcomed into the Fordham Law community weeks before first-year J.D. orientation begins in mid-August by providing early exposure to important intellectual, academic, professional, wellness, and social skills needed to be successful in law school and beyond.
This year’s cohort hails from 12 states across the country and speaks 16 languages in total. The majority of Scholars are first-generation college students.
“This is an exciting moment when we get to bring you all together and, believe me, you’ll be amazed at how connected you will be to one another by the end of the week,” said Kimathi Gordon-Somers, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Diversity. “You will all have this shared experience, which you will grow through as you go out [into the world]to become professionals.”
“You have got so much to offer each other as you will all learn from one another and develop strong friendships and connections to each other,” added Dean Matthew Diller. “Not only that, but you have so much to offer our school and our legal profession.”
“The REAL Scholars Program was created to provide students from diverse backgrounds the resources, tools, and support necessary to succeed in law school and in the legal profession, and so they have, going on to be leaders of affinity groups, the Student Bar Association, Law Review, and Moot Court as well as working at top law firms and public interest organizations,” said Khanh V. Nguyen, Program Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “But it’s also aimed at providing community amongst one another as well as to giving back to the community. If there is one message we wish to instill in them, it is to pay it forward. Many of our previous REAL Scholars return to the program to provide support in the form of teaching assistants and peer mentors.”
A Sneak Peek into Law School Life
During the week of July 31, the REAL Scholars attended various classes that introduced them to the foundations of law as well as the basics of legal writing, reasoning, research and analysis, and fundamental legal concepts. They also learned useful information from peer mentors and dozens of informative panels featuring alumni of color, student organization representatives, and academic extracurricular groups and teams.
“My biggest focus is that you all get your questions answered and that you feel reassured and prepared,” said Saniya Suri ’21 during the career panel. “Whatever ends up happening over the next three years is your journey. It’s all about you, not about what anyone tells you should or shouldn’t be. The Law School not only gave me access to the professors and resources that you’ve heard about, but it also gave me access to things like this [panel], student groups, and a place to cultivate professional and personal relationships.”
“Fordham Law is nothing if not a community,” added Will Lanier ’23, last year’s Student Bar Association president. “Don’t feel like you’re ever putting anyone out by asking for what you need, because everyone at Fordham wants you to be successful.”
The REAL Scholars also attended law firm receptions with Jones Day and Hamilton Clarke. In addition, the REAL students visited the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office where they had an opportunity to meet with the District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez, and learn from several members of his deputy staff. Other events such as a welcome reception at the Law School where they met faculty and department heads, a bowling social, a legal scavenger hunt, and a closing dinner allowed the students to come together with their peers in informal settings.
View scenes from the reception at Jones Day: