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Published June 13, 2024

Global firm, University Law School partner to create fellowship

The Jones Day Diversity Fellowship will start with its first student in fall 2023, offering a full-ride scholarship, job opportunities and a mentorship program.
Image by Shalom Berhane
The University Of Minnesota Law School on Jan. 25. Fellowship applicants will have until March to apply.

The University of Minnesota Law School is partnering with global law firm Jones Day on the new Jones Day Diversity Fellowship, with hopes of increasing diversity in the legal profession.

The fellowship will kick off in fall 2023 with its inaugural student selected from the next class of incoming law students.

The recipient of the fellowship will receive a full-tuition scholarship for all three years of law school, a position as a paid summer associate at Jones Day during the first two years of law school, mentorship from Jones Day attorneys and consideration for a full-time position after graduation. The firm has arranged for the fellowship to continue for the next five years, with hopes of renewing it.

Yvette McGee Brown, a global partner in charge of diversity, inclusion and advancement at Jones Day, said funding for the full-time scholarships will be coming directly from the firm.

“It’s coming from [the firm’s] partners’ pockets,” Brown said. “We are paying tuition for the students; it’s just a commitment we have made.”

Jones Day partners noticed lack of diversity in the legal profession

Brown said since graduating from law school in 1985, she noticed the legal profession is one of the least diverse professions.

“We just can’t seem to get over that hurdle,” Brown said. “We’ve got to stop talking about diversity and start doing something about it.”

In 2022, people of color only accounted for roughly 11% of all legal partners, and women accounted for about 27%, according to a report from the National Association for Law Placement. The report stated that the legal industry is making gains in its diverse representation but has failed to break down the “systemic barriers” that are preventing people from becoming partners.

Brown said Jones Day wanted to become part of the solution. She said while hiring diverse lawyers is important, she wanted to look into how to get more diverse lawyers into the field in the first place.

Dotun Obadina, a partner and diversity chair at the Minneapolis Jones Day office, worked with Brown to develop the fellowship.

“We’ll be looking at it from the lens of adding diversity to this existing community,” Obadina said.

Obadina and Brown created the fellowship proposal and presented it to their fellow partners. Jones Day wanted the fellowship to start at the University Law School because Minneapolis has become “the epicenter” for diversity efforts since the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, Brown said.

“It seemed like a perfect place to start,” Brown said.

Brown said they began discussing the idea with the University Law School in early summer of 2022 and announced the fellowship in December.

“The fellowship is really born out of the idea that we can contribute meaningfully to diversity in the Twin Cities,” Obadina said. “Then through the partnership with Jones Day, retain eye-level, diverse candidates into the law school and into our legal community.”

Applicants will receive an invite to apply for the fellowship

Robin Ingli, admissions director for the University Law School, said after being admitted to the University, top scholarship recipients will be sent an invite to apply for the fellowship. The priority deadline for applications is Feb. 15, and the cut-off deadline is March 1.

Once the application pool has been narrowed down, Jones Day will collaborate with the University to set up interviews and meet with candidates, according to Brown.

Brown and Obadina said while they are looking for students who show high academic performance, they are also looking for strong leadership qualities.

“Yes, having A’s is great and it’s important, but there is also another indica[tion] of success,” Brown said. “To be a lawyer, you’ve gotta have some grit, you’ve gotta have some tenacity; so what we’re hoping is to identify people who want to be lawyers, who really have the drive and rigor to see it through to the end.”

Ingli added that in addition to tuition benefits and job opportunities, the fellowship is different from a traditional internship because students will receive mentorship. A team of lawyers will check in on the student, invite them to events and get coffee or meals with them.

“Law school can be kind of lonely,” Obadina said. “Having something that’s built-in where you will have a set group of people who you will see again and again and again over the course of your law school experience, I think that’s pretty powerful.”

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