DePaul University program aims to develop more first-generation lawyers of color

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ByWill Jones via WLS logo
Sunday, June 26, 2022
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The journey to becoming an attorney can be challenging for anyone, but especially for first generation law students of color.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The journey to becoming an attorney can be challenging for anyone, but especially for first-generation law students of color.

Attorney Amanda Moncada-Perkins can speak from experience.

"It took a lot to get here and I think that our story isn't told enough about the successes that we can have if we are given the opportunity and the exposure," she said.

That's why DePaul University College of Law Dean Jennifer Rosato Perea created the First Generation in Law Scholars Program. She's one of a few Latina law school deans in the country.

"If I can do whatever I can to move the needle I am going to do it," Rosato Perea said.

The 3-year paid summer program launched this week with 10 students for now. The mission is to introduce college students from underrepresented backgrounds to the legal profession and prepare them for law school.

"In my community where I normally come from, a lot of us aren't familiar with legal processes," said program participant Arly Duran, who uses a law degree to impact public policy.

Program participants are paired with a mentor in the field. On Thursday, students met their mentors for the first time.

"We want to have ongoing mentoring for them because that's one thing I didn't have and I wish I had, and our students really need and deserve," Rosato Perea said.

Moncada-Perkins said she wants to inspire these future lawyers.

"I hope the students walk away with an understanding that they deserve to be in the room," she said.

They're going to enter into a profession with few faces like theirs.

The overwhelming majority of attorneys are non-white. According to a recent American Bar Association survey, 81% of lawyers are white, only 6% identify as Hispanic and the Black and Asian communities each account for 5% of lawyers.

Rosato Perea is hoping to expand the program in the future to include more students per cohort.

"I'm more motivated to make change because change, I realize, comes very slowly," she said.