Southwestern College students now have clearer access to six top California law schools with the new Pathway to Law School initiative, sponsored by the California State Bar’s Council on Access and Fairness. The program is open to students in all majors who are interested or would like to know more about becoming a lawyer or pursuing a career in law.
Helping lead the program is Administration of Justice Professor Jamie Ledezma, who has also worked as a practicing attorney for 15 years. For Ledezma, it’s important to let any student know that this opportunity is available to them, regardless of major, background, status or family history.
“Some of the best attorneys had a theatre degree or were a photography major,” she said. “To participate, you don’t have to change your academic path. Law school doesn’t necessarily teach you how to be a lawyer. It teaches you how to think critically and we need those skills in every aspect of our lives. There is an ability to apply your primary interest or area of study and couple that with the law.”
Ledezma, a first-generation college student, didn’t meet her first attorney until her first day of law school, so introducing these students to the law community early in their education is an important step to help them build connections for possible internships or job shadowing.
“For their educational path, having exposure to members of our community will help them decide if this is for them or not,” she said. “This is an opportunity for our students to hear from, and interact one-on-one with, professionals. These are working attorneys and judges who are making hiring decisions.”
Students in the program, designated as Pathway to Law School Scholars, must earn an Associate’s Degree, complete seven specified courses, such as ethics and logic, transfer to a four-year college or university and they are highly encouraged to participate in public interest/civic activities.
The benefits of this program are vast. Students in the program at Southwestern College will visit law schools, gain contacts in the legal community, scholarship opportunities and will have specialized counseling from their professors. If they meet their requirements, the participating law schools will waive their admissions fees and will also perform holistic reviews of their applications.
Erick Sanchez, a political science major, came to Southwestern College with a long-term goal of becoming an attorney, but said there wasn’t anything he felt that could help him get here. He said he couldn’t find people who shared his goals.
“It isn’t easy to find people that have the same passions as you,” he said. “Joining this, I’m able to be around like-minded people and gain motivation and perspective from people who also want to do the same thing I want to do. Now that I’m in Pathway to Law, I have that head start, I have those connections. I have that clear path and I think it’s a great opportunity.”
The participating law schools in Southwestern College’s Pathway to Law are Loyola Law School, Los Angeles; Santa Clara University; University of California, Davis; University of California, Irvine; University of San Francisco; and the University of Southern California.