When Catarina Colón, vice president of academic affairs for the Latino/a Law Student Association, first got to University of Wisconsin Law School she heard a lot of concerns, particularly from students out of state, like: Where are all of the people of color? Where is the representation?
“I took those concerns to heart and I care about the state a lot,” Colón tells Madison365. “And I just told them, ‘The way to fix this is to have you guys stick around. We need you to stay in the state.’ That’s how we start solving this problem.’ That’s how the idea for creating this event started.”
“Diversity in the Law,” a one-day event for undergraduates and high school students interested in pursuing a career in the law. will take place Friday, Oct. 26, 12:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. at the University of Wisconsin Law School, 975 Bascom Mall. Diversity in the Law will include a candid discussion of life as a law student from the perspective of current students from diverse backgrounds. personal statement tips and career options after graduation.
“There are student organizations and the [UW] Center for Academic Excellence is really wonderful for undergrads at the university and I really enjoyed being in that program when I was an undergrad here,” Colón says, “but I feel unless students have the opportunity to talk to people who are currently in law school, there are really missing an opportunity to ask a lot of questions and find out what the experience is like as a person of color.”
Colón started to go around asking professors if she thought that an event like “Diversity in the Law” would be a good idea. They agreed. She spoke with UW Law School students and they also agreed it was a good idea.
“One of the purposes of this event was to bring high school students and undergrads to the law school to just get them in the building and to see what it’s like,” Colon says.
The event takes place in a law school classroom. There will be lunch served and an opportunity to mingle before a student panel will be held featuring students from the Legal Educational Opportunities (LEO) groups. The University of Wisconsin Law School LEO Program was established in 1967 to address issues of diversity within the student body.
“The LEO groups include the Hispanic Law School Association, the Black Law School Association, Indigenous Law, Asian-Pacific Islander Law, and Middle Eastern Law,” Colon says. “We will also have Q Law, which is the LGBTQ student organization there. The event should be very diverse with lots of different groups represented.”
After the student panel, there will be a professional panel and that will include practicing attorneys as well as people who pursued non-traditional career paths after graduation.
“The purpose of that is so students can see that they can go to law school, but they don’t have to practice law,” Colón says. “There are a lot of things they can do with a law degree and I think that’s a large misconception.
“Another misconception is that you can’t take any time off – you have to go straight through from undergrad to law school … and that’s certainly not the case,” she adds. “Most people actually take off 2-3 years before they go back.”
Another portion of the “Diversity in the Law” event will be working on personal statements, free LSAT Prep registration and resume tips. “That will actually be presented by somebody from the admissions office,” Colón says. “We will have a faculty member doing that portion of that event.”
“In general, I hope people who come will feel comfortable asking questions that maybe they couldn’t ask a faculty member,” she adds. “Is it difficult to be in law school when you are a minority student? What is everyday life like? What do you wear?
“I want people to be very comfortable at this event,” she continues. “To be able to ask anything they like. To have some food and to network, which is very important. We just want to plant the seed.”
The goal of “Diversity in the Law” isn’t necessarily to make people want to go to UW Law School, but to law school, in general.
“We really just need representation all over the place within the profession. Apply wherever you want,” Colón says. “We want to let them know that this is something they are capable of doing and that the profession needs people who come from diverse backgrounds and we will be able to serve clients better when we have people who can relate to those individuals.
“I’m really excited about this event,” she adds. “I hope that this event continues and becomes an annual event that takes place every year in the fall.”
“Diversity in the Law” will take place Friday, Oct. 26, 12:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. at the University of Wisconsin Law School, 975 Bascom Mall. Students are not required to attend all portions of the event. For more information, contact Catarina Colón at [email protected] or Jacob Alonzo at [email protected]