PLUS Program at Maine Law encourages diversity in legal education

Student in the PLUS ProgramA diverse group of college students  — including students originally from Afghanistan, Brazil, China, Kenya, and the United Kingdom — are among 25 participants in Maine Law’s first ever summer immersion program for young people interested in the law and legal careers.

The inaugural Pre-Law Undergraduate Scholars (PLUS) program gets underway this week at the University of Maine School of Law in Portland, and runs through June 24.

The program is designed primarily for students of color, immigrants, low-income students, and students from rural areas, reflecting the ultimate goal of bringing more diversity to the legal profession in Maine and around the country.

Among the participants are:

  • A student at Southern Maine Community College who received only two years of education in her home country of Afghanistan, earned her high school diploma in Portland, and is interested in international law and women’s rights.
  • A student at Bowdoin College who grew up in the UK, volunteers with disadvantaged children, and hopes to become a lawyer to help people harmed by poverty.
  • A student at the University of Maine at Farmington who has served as an intern for the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office, and who hopes to one day prosecute crimes against humanity at the International Court of Justice.

The University of Maine School of Law was awarded a $300,000 grant from the Law School Admission Council to fund the PLUS program for three summers. For this summer, 25 undergraduates were selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants, with preference given to applicants from Maine. Students receive free housing, meals, and a $1,000 stipend. Only 17 other law schools nationwide have been selected to administer the grants since LSAC first offered them in 2002.

The PLUS Program is being taught by Maine Law professors and teaching assistants. The curriculum includes an introduction to lawyering, leadership skills, legal writing, as well as visits to courthouses, law firms, the State House and other destinations. Students will also take part in simulations where they will work in teams to represent fictional clients.

“This is a game-changer,” said Danielle Conway, dean at Maine Law. “As the public law school for Maine, and the only law school in the state, Maine Law is guided by a longstanding commitment to diversity and public service. This program helps us put those values into action.”

“By encouraging young people from diverse backgrounds to explore careers in law, and by providing skills training to them at this point in their lives, we can open pathways they might have never considered or thought possible,” Conway said.

On June 1, participants in the PLUS program will be attending “The 14th Amendment: A Living Document” from 5:30- 7:30 p.m. at the Rines Auditorium, Portland Public Library. This will be a discussion of the importance of the 14th Amendment, featuring Kenneth Mack of Harvard University, and David Blight of Yale University, and moderated by Danielle Conway, Dean at the University of Maine School of Law. The event is being hosted by the Maine Humanities Council and the University of Maine School of Law.