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Diversity and Inclusive Excellence

In today’s legal world, diversity and inclusiveness are more than aspirations. They are necessities.

At Denver Law, a core part of our vision is the preparation of students for twenty-first-century legal practice, and this necessarily requires that our classrooms reflect the diversity of a twenty-first-century society.

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Our strategic plan, adopted by the faculty in 2011, committed the Sturm College of Law to adapt to a changing world by considering the impacts on law and legal practice of phenomena such as globalization; increasing diversity; technological change; and the growing inter-connectedness of people and places. Denver Law’s 2015 strategic plan recognizes the value of the school’s pipeline programs and recommits us to the work of helping to develop a legal profession whose diversity matches the society it serves.

Our pipeline initiatives are designed to open up pathways for diverse students to legal education. It is where we direct our energy and efforts. We build and foster relationships, and we construct and sustain programs, designed to increase the access of diverse students to college, to law school and to the legal profession.

Because we know we cannot do this alone, we are eager to rely on and share responsibilities with others to advance these aims. Because education and professional attainment are not achieved overnight, we embrace a long-term view. And in order to know how we are doing, we monitor and assess our efforts. We want to be judged on our results.

1. Catherine Smith, Seven Principles: Increasing Access to Law School Among Students of Color. Iowa Law Review, 96: 1677, 1683 (2011).

Pipeline Initiatives

Pipeline programs, developed and in place at many law schools, are designed to increase the flow of diverse students into the pool of applicants for legal education. Without that increase, “the profession will remain apart from the population it represents.” The challenges are many and varied. Sundry inequities and hurdles make access to education for diverse students “a winding maze with detours, dead ends, obstructions and holes.” It follows that no one-size-fits-all pipeline program is possible, and our efforts at Denver Law offer a variety of approaches.

  • Pipeline: Middle School and High School to College

    Our partnership with the Denver Urban Debate League brings that organization under our roof and gives our law school a stake in the opportunity for one hundred and fifty students on teams representing fifteen high schools from Denver Public Schools and Aurora Public Schools, districts with a very high percentage of diverse students, to participate in competitions and develop skills translating to academic success and access. Click on “Denver Urban Debate League” at the left to learn more.

    Working with high school and middle school teachers and counselors, we arrange trips to the law school for diverse students interested in learning more about law school and the legal profession.

    In the summer of 2018, we collaborated with the Center for Legal Inclusiveness on "Journey to JD," a week-long summer law camp. Twenty diverse high school rising juniors from around Colorado spent a week at DU, learning about the law and exploring Denver.

  • Pipeline: Undergraduate to Law School

    The 2014 Pipeline Conference, co-sponsored by Denver Law and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT), brought law professors, law school admissions officials, lawyers and law students together with diverse undergraduates from eleven Colorado colleges and universities to share information about preparing for and succeeding in law school. We repeated the Pipeline Conference March 28, 2015, adding a track for high school students. In the spring of 2016 and then again in 2017, we held our third and fourth Pipeline Conferences. We plan to continue in the years ahead to offer undergraduates and high school students interested in the law inspiration and information. See more information about our Pipeline Conferences to date by clicking on the headings to the left.

    We've established a partnership with Metro State University, hosting a "Metro State Day at Denver Law" in 2017 and 2018. Thirty-five-plus Metro State undergrads spend a half-day at our law school. They hear from law professors and admission officers. They have lunch with current Denver Law students who graduated from Metro State.

    The Prelaw Vanguard at Denver Law is our name for the collective of undergraduate and high school students we reach out to, throughout the Denver area and Colorado. 

  • Pipeline: Law School Faculty

    Our Emerging Legal Scholars Initiative addresses another kind of pipeline—from law school and the legal profession into the legal academy—by bringing diverse candidates for law school faculties to professional conferences. Read about our 2014 Emerging Legal Scholars by clicking on the link to the left.

    The John Mercer Langston Black Male Faculty Writing Workshop is not our initiative—it is a group of African American male law professors who meet annually to discuss and promote recruitment and retention of diverse law school faculty members. We proudly hosted their Workshop in the summer of 2013. 

1st

associate dean of diversity & inclusiveness appointed in the nation

1892

inaugural class included a woman, an African American, and a foreign national from Japan

1941

alumna Helen Thorpe becomes the first full-time female law faculty member in the nation

I was inspired by the plethora of practicing attorneys and students that were impassioned to help their communities and to help me and other students like me. I am in fact half Hispanic. I am Puerto Rican Spaniard and my dad is a Syrian immigrant, so being a half Hispanic half Arab in this country has been a bit more difficult and so finding a community that really took me in and is helping myself and others like me is really awesome.

Zachary Al-Tabbaa, JD '19

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The Seven Principles

Our Approach and Guidelines

  • 1. Go local

    We seek to foster connections between Denver Law / DU and young people in the city of Denver, the state of Colorado, and the Rocky Mountain region. We are committed to opening doors to those “in our own backyard” and creating opportunities that ultimately will strengthen diversity within the practicing bar.

  • 2. Build relationships

    Our goal is to build genuine connections and relationships, both with partner organizations and the students with whom we are engaged. Relationships serve to strengthen our efforts and ultimate outcomes.

  • 3. Level the playing field

    Structural barriers and barriers of thought both undermine the competitiveness of diverse students in law school admissions and in law school performance. We want to break those down, or at least chip away at the walls.

  • 4. Embrace the long-term view

    The developments we envision will not happen overnight; a first-year high school student with whom we are engaged now is at least seven years away from admission to law school.

  • 5. Monitor and assess

    We must be able to offer compelling arguments for why we are undertaking particular projects and monitor indicators that tell us whether we are on the right track. In the long term, outcomes must be quantifiable.

  • 6. Be efficient—in terms of cost and expertise

    Programs with large price tags are not necessarily going to be more effective than programs with smaller ones. Further, we do not want to reinvent the wheel; we acknowledge that our partners in the University and broader community often have skills and expertise we do not.

  • 7. Support the bigger picture

    Our broad interest is in breaking down barriers that impede the success of less privileged individuals and groups in our communities and in society. Although our goal is for the students with whom we engage to ultimately choose the University of Denver and the law school, if a student chooses another undergraduate program or law school, or opts for business or medical school instead, that is still a success, because it is a success for that student and for equity in our society.

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Diversity Office Contacts

 
Smith

Catherine E. Smith

Professor

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Randy Wagner

Randy Wagner

Director

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