Each year since 2007, a new group of college students — and hopeful future lawyers — have made the rounds at Miles & Stockbridge P.C. as part of the Fannie Angelos Program for Academic Excellence, meeting with attorneys and getting a sense of what it’s really like to work at a law firm.
Just two years ago, University of Baltimore School of Law student Matthew Bradford was one of those undergraduates. Now, he’s a summer associate at the Baltimore firm — the first to earn a summer spot there after completing the pipeline program, which aims to help students at historically black colleges and universities attend law school.
“We had hoped one day that someone from the program would come to this law firm — go to law school and then apply to interview with us and ultimately have someone as a summer associate and then a lawyer at the firm,” said Randi Lewis, director of diversity and professional development at the firm. “It’s full circle for us.”
The Fannie Angelos Program was launched as a collaboration between UB Law and the state’s HBCUs: Coppin State University, Bowie State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. It began in the 1990s, but the format has changed over time to meet students’ needs, said Michael Meyerson, DLA Piper professor of law at UB Law and director of the program.
“Building on the pipeline concept, we realized it’s not just enough to connect one part of the pipe to another,” Meyerson said. “It’s not just connecting undergraduates to law schools; you have to connect them to law firms and the legal community, and we’re hoping more and more law firms will join in. Showing that [the students] are top-notch legal professionals and connecting them with law firms is the next major area we’re working on.”
The program includes two parts, the Baltimore Scholars Program and the LSAT Award Program. The Scholars portion gives eight undergraduates the opportunity to experience a two-week “boot camp” immersion into law school life, while the Awards portion covers the majority of a semester-long LSAT preparation course for up to 80 students or graduates, including the eight Scholars.
Students like Bradford, who complete the Baltimore Scholars Program and are accepted to UB Law with an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.5 and an LSAT score of at least 152, receive a full-tuition scholarship to the law school.
“Going to college was already a challenge for me, and I didn’t know much about the law school process,” said Bradford, a Morgan State graduate. “I planned on taking the LSATs without any preparation or classes, then I saw a flyer for the program and a professor recommended it to me.”
The program has evolved in recent years to incorporate sessions on resume and interview tips, as well as communication in the workplace, Lewis said.
“We’ve gotten much more aware of the numerous roadblocks that keep talented students from achieving their potential,” Meyerson said. “Every year we add different components in our continuing effort to level the playing field.”
Change in direction
For Bradford, the chance to talk with working lawyers gave him a sense of what daily life at a law firm is like and helped him build relationships with future mentors.
“Before then, I had never met an attorney before,” he said. “When I went into the firm, I had never had been in a law firm, and I had this predisposition that law firms are very stuffy places. I was very blown away by how friendly everyone was.”
The program also helped shape the direction of his future career, Bradford said. Although he thought he would become a criminal lawyer, he became interested in contracts and tort law after speaking with Miles attorneys about their practices. This summer, he’s worked on projects in business litigation, mass torts and product litigation, he said.
Meyerson said he hopes the Fannie Angelos Program becomes a model for recruiting diverse students at other professional schools. Bradford, who will be a third-year student at UB Law this fall, is one example of its impact, he said.
“This is all about finding talent,” Meyerson said. “He’s an example of what the program is meant to do and is doing.”