The Diversity Scholarship Foundation, NFP (“Foundation”) is a 501(c)(3) organization under the Internal Revenue Code. It was established by a group of attorneys and judges committed to the ideal that diverse law school student bodies are a means of ensuring further diversification in the legal community. Although the Foundation was formally established in March 2008, the Foundation’s mission had its genesis in 2002, when 17 bar association presidents joined together for the first symbolic swearing-in and took an oath to promote the goal of advancing diversity within the Chicago legal community. In subsequent years, the number of participating associations has greatly increased, to where, today, more than 50 associations have joined together to partake in the symbolic swearing-in and pledge to support the increasing need to take concrete steps to diversify the legal community.
The Unity Award Dinner
One of the premier fundraising events of the Foundation is the annual Unity Award Dinner, which is now in its thirteenth year and hosted in partnership with The John Marshall Law School. The dinner includes an awards presentation which recognizes the tireless efforts of individuals who have made significant contributions to the legal community and the community at large, including embracing diversity and the ideals diversity represents.
The highlight of the evening, however, is the awarding of a variety of scholarships to diverse and deserving law students from across our state. In 2015, the Foundation awarded 14 individual scholarships and one additional scholarship to the American Bar Association’s Judicial Internship Opportunity Program.
In addition, over 25 bar associations were represented in the annual Oath of Diversity and Swearing-In of Bar Presidents by circuit court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans.
Support to Other Organizations With Common Goals
In addition to providing a variety of merit and need-based scholarships at its annual Unity Award Dinner, the Foundation also provides support year-round to other organizations that share the common goal of promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.
In 2015, the Foundation made donations to the following organizations:
- Puerto Rican Bar Association
- Asian American Bar Foundation
- Saturday’s Place
- American Bar Association’s Judicial Intern Opportunity Program
- Illinois Judicial Council
- Cook County Bar Association
- The John Marshall Law School Alumni Association
- Women’s Bar Association of Illinois
- Filipino American Lawyers Association of Chicago
- Minority Bar CLE
Throughout the year, judges and lawyers, in association with the Foundation, visit local public elementary, middle, and high schools. This past year, the Foundation has developed supported the Magna Carta Program, a program in which school-aged children are visited by judges and lawyers and taught about the Magna Carta. In conjunction with this program, the school children are taught the importance of professionalism and civility.
The Foundation has visited the following schools:
Kelly High School
Midtown Education Foundation
Continuing Legal Education Seminars
In addition to providing scholarships and supporting our community, the Foundation also provides free continuing legal education seminars (CLEs) to those in the Chicagoland legal community. Law students are always welcome to attend, as well. A new initiative, started in Summer of 2015, we have already hosted two successful events.
Worker’s Compensation CLE – September 2015
Hosted by McAndrews Held & Malloy, Ltd.
Panelists, Dina M. Ninfo, Beverly N. Masuda, and Arbitrator Barbara N. Flores, as well as our moderator William A. Lowry (pictured here with DSF President, Justice Jesse G. Reyes) for “Ethical Considerations and Practice Tips for you at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.”
Bankruptcy CLE – October 2015
Hosted by Nixon Peabody
Our panelists from left to right: Justice Jesse G. Reyes, president, Diversity Scholarship Foundation; Carolina Y. Sales, partner, Bauch & Michaels, LLC; Gretchen Silver, trial attorney, Office of the United States Trustee; Brandon White, Tom Vaughn, Chapter 13 Trustee; Francisco E. Connell, principal, Chuhak & Tecson, P.C.; and Hon. Jacqueline P. Cox, United States Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Illinois.
Our Mission: To Promote Diversity and Inclusion by Bringing Awareness and Providing Support to the Underrepresented Sectors of the Legal Community.
To fulfill its mission, the Foundation seeks to financially assist underprivileged and under-represented minorities in attending law school by offering them scholarships. In addition to the Foundation’s own community-outreach programming directed at middle and high school students, the Foundation’s Board of Directors also present the annual Unity Award Dinner. The Foundation also provides financial support to programs and initiatives of various bar associations that are consistent with its mission of diversifying the legal community. The Foundation’s Board of Directors view bar organizations as their partners to their mission of diversifying the legal community.
The Foundation hopes to obtain more charitable contributions to fulfill our mission of promoting diversity within the legal community in various efforts. Those efforts include:
- Awarding funds to law schools that actively promote diversity within its student population;
- Awarding scholarships to those law school students who promote diversity within their student bodies or award scholarship funds to bar foundations that have established scholarship funds to law school students;
- Investing in programs that educate middle and high school students about the law and the process of becoming a lawyer;
- Providing LSAT tutoring and mentoring to students who plan to attend law school;
- Providing tutoring and mentoring to law school students who encounter academic challenges;
- Supporting selected diversity initiatives presented by organizations that participate in the Unity Award Dinner; and
- Providing support and resources to law firms that seek to diversify its workforce.