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February 09, 2022

Midyear 2022: Judges build pipeline to more diverse bench

A diverse group of about 80 law students from across the country will spend three days talking with and learning from judges during the American Bar Association Midyear Meeting.

The ABA Judicial Clerkship Program introduces law students from diverse backgrounds to judges and law clerks from state and federal courts. This year, 35 judges will participate, as well as 89 students from 18 law schools and one law center.

For students, the program promotes the lifelong benefits of a judicial clerkship. The program also encourages judges to consider students of color who otherwise might not have been considered for judicial clerkships.

During three days of formal and informal meetings, law students will explore legal issues, perform legal research, prepare legal memoranda or briefs and defend their positions to their colleagues and the judges.

This is the 22nd year of the program, co-sponsored by the ABA Judicial Division and the ABA Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline, with support from LexisNexis. Since the program began, approximately 1,100 law students have participated. The earliest participants are now mid-career lawyers.

One of the ABA’s four goals is to eliminate bias and enhance diversity within the legal profession and the justice system. Historically, few law students of color have participated in judicial clerkships.

Today, nearly one-third of all law students (32%) are Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or multiracial. The mission of the ABA Council for Diversity in the Educational Pipeline is to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in the pipeline to the legal profession.

The Judicial Clerkship Program allows judges, law students and former law clerks to develop close working relationships and to improve students’ analytical, legal research and writing skills. Participants work in teams of at least one judge, one former law clerk and four to six law students. Judges are asked to make a commitment to strive to hire at least two minority law clerks over the next five years.

Law schools participating this year are: American Indian Law Center, University of California Irvine, University of Connecticut, Indiana University, University of Iowa, Loyola University Chicago, Michigan State University, University of North Carolina, Penn State University, Pepperdine University, University of the Pacific, Saint Louis University, South Texas College of Law Houston, Southern University, University of San Francisco and University of Tennessee.