Members of Cornell University's inaugural Black Ivy Pre-Law Society
Two years ago, The Washington Post published a story with the headline, “Law is the least diverse profession in the nation. And lawyers aren’t doing enough to change that.” It revealed that a whopping 88 percent of lawyers are White and that, in major law firms, only 3 percent of associates and 2 percent of partners are Black. While 4 percent of White men reported feeling excluded from either formal or informal networking opportunities, 62 percent of women of color reported feeling this way.
Lydia Anglin and Samantha Camy, both students in Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the class of 2018, are doing something to change that.
Last spring, the duo came together with five other classmates to form the Black Ivy Pre-Law Society after noticing holes in pre-law resources provided on campus, particularly those targeted toward students of color. “We were often getting generalized advice – get good grades and LSAT scores – and did not feel that the broader services were meeting our needs,” says Anglin, a Houston, TX native pursuing corporate law and public policy. “None of the advisors were people who looked like us, which was intimidating and discouraging.”
As of early May, Black Ivy has more than two dozen members, and their message is spreading; an article deeming them its “#WCW” has racked up more than 100,000 shares across social platforms.
“Black Ivy is as much a support group as it is an honors society,” says Anglin of the society. Members are encouraged to bounce ideas off of one another and serve as resources for questions about the process of pursuing a career in law. “Black Ivy doesn't mean that we will never use wider campus pre-law resources again, but it provides a safe space to find support and simultaneously increase our law school readiness,” she adds.
Despite its name, the Black Ivy Pre-Law society is not exclusive to Black or female students. Instead, its mission is to support students of color guided by its core values of ethics, equality, and excellence when it comes to becoming well-rounded legal professionals and community leaders.
Following the society’s public launch last month, it has held meet-and-greets and student panels with Cornell Law School Black Students Association and seen four of its society members complete the Cornell Law School Outreach Program, which is designed to help prepare underrepresented minority undergraduate students for admission to law school,
As for what’s next, Anglin looks forward to seeing Black Ivy open chapters on campuses around the country and organizing annual conferences for members. She and Camy also plan to develop a guide outlining how students can create similar organizations on other campuses.
“More than ever, solidarity and community development are so important,” says Anglin. Her advice to others interested in addressing disparity and creating opportunity? “When you notice a gap, fill it. Look around. See who else is encountering similar circumstances. Reach up and reach back. Leverage those who have succeeded and use their success to build up those around you.”
Images by Nadia May