Allen County Bar Foundation establishes diversity scholarships

Inspired by Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush’s call to action, the Allen County Bar Foundation has launched a pair of scholarships to support minority students interested in becoming lawyers.

The foundation has established two scholarships for law students and undergraduates who are from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups and either are from Allen County or plan to practice law in Allen County. This year, one scholarship will provide up to $2,500 to a law student to help cover tuition and fees or the cost of bar exam preparation while another scholarship will award up to $1,500 to an undergraduate to help offset the cost of applying for or preparing for the Law School Admissions Test.

Scholarship applications are available on the bar foundation’s website. The application deadline is Feb. 28 with the awards being announced by April 1.

The scholarship program originated with the Allen County Bar Association’s diversity and inclusion committee, led by attorneys Nikki Quintana, Malak Heiny and Sarah Beiswanger. They said they were inspired by Rush’s statement on race and equity made in response to the public outcry following the death of George Floyd.

“We must improve the pathway for more people of color to become lawyers and judges,” Rush stated. “People must see themselves, their experiences, and their backgrounds reflected in the bench and bar of this state to foster trust and understanding between the public and the judicial branch.”

Beiswanger cited stats given by Rush which showed 75% of Hoosier attorneys are white while just 3.24% are Black and 1.41% are Hispanic.

“Diversity in the legal profession is important for reducing unequal treatment and improving the quality of legal representation of underrepresented groups,” Beiswanger, a bar foundation board member, stated. “It inspires trust in the inherent equity and fairness of judicial proceedings. The Foundation’s scholarship is a tangible step in making the Allen County bar more diverse and inclusive.”

Bar foundation board and committee members have been reaching out to law schools in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois to promote the new scholarship. Also, they have contacted public and private universities in Indiana to connect with undergraduate students who are planning to pursue a J.D. degree.

For its initial year, the scholarship initiative will fund one award to a law student and one to an undergraduate. Additional funds raised by the award deadline may be used to fund either more scholarships in 2022 or in future years.

Anyone interested in making a donation should visit the bar foundation’s website.

“The launch of this scholarship for current and future law students from Allen County or those planning to work here after graduation is an ideal way for the Allen County Bar Foundation to carry out its mission of educating individuals about civics and the law,” Dom Gosheff, president of the bar foundation board, said in a press release. “We believe these scholarships will help create a lasting legacy in our community for improved diversity of lawyers and judges in the years to come.”

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