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.
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
One of the premier fundraising events of the Foundation is the annual Unity Award Dinner, which is now in its eighteenth year. The event was initially hosted in partnership with The John Marshall Law School. The gala includes an awards presentation that 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 2019, the Foundation awarded 14 individual scholarships.
In addition, over 50 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.
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. Over the last several years, the Foundation has made donations to the following organizations among others:
American Bar Association’s Judicial Intern Opportunity Program
Asian American Bar Association Law Foundation
Asian American Coalition of Chicago
Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago
Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago
Chicago Bar Association
Chicago Loop Synagogue
Chinese American Bar Association of Greater Chicago
Cook County Bar Foundation
Elder Law & Wellness Initiative, NFP
Filipino American Lawyers Association of Chicago
Niles West High School
North Suburban Bar Association
Perez Elementary School
Puerto Rican Bar Association
Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois
Hispanic Lawyers Scholarship Fund of Illinois
Illinois Judges Foundation
Illinois Judicial Council Foundation
Illinois Bar Foundation
International Academy of Dispute Resoultion
The Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago
Minority Bar CLE
Niles West High School
UIC John Marshall Law School Alumni Association
Women’s Bar Association of Illinois
South Asian Bar Association of Chicago
St. Joseph College Seminary
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 and 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 schools including Chavez Elementary, Corpus, Davis, Gonzalez, Kelly High School, Midtown Education Foundation, and Perez Elementary.
In addition to providing scholarships and supporting our community, the Foundation also provides continuing legal education seminars (CLEs) to those in the Chicagoland legal community. Law students are always welcome to attend, as well.