Founded in 1997 with the mission to advance the hiring, retention, and promotion of minority and other diverse attorneys, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) works to improve the legal profession by focusing on its future: young, aspiring lawyers.
Through its Lloyd M. Johnson (LMJ) Scholarship Program, the organization helps advance the pipeline to the profession by annually awarding $10,000 scholarships to diverse, financially disadvantaged students entering their first year of law school.
“The LMJ Scholarship Program is critical to helping develop a new class of diverse lawyers. It seeks to provide diverse students with both financial assistance and a community of lawyers whom they can access for support throughout their legal education and career,” says MCCA President and CEO Jean Lee. “This scholarship helps ensure that these brilliant, diverse law students will not miss out on the opportunity to attend some of this country’s best [law] schools simply because they cannot afford it.”
Established in 2004 and named after MCCA’s founder, this national program is open to any student who has been accepted by and plans to earn a Juris Doctor degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. Beyond an interest in corporate law and the 3.2 GPA requirement, MCCA seeks students who demonstrate financial need, are outstanding and promising scholars, have overcome obstacles, and possess a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“[We] select students who have overcome challenges in life because it is an indicator of strong character and perseverance. Additionally, [we] select students who are financially disadvantaged because we recognize that law school has become cost prohibitive for too many,” says Lee. “… Our intent is to create a ripple effect of incoming diverse lawyers who will ultimately help further MCCA’s mission of [creating] a more diverse and inclusive legal profession.”
MCCA’s definition of diversity is “comprehensive and inclusive,” Lee says. When reviewing scholarship applicants, the organization not only considers a person’s race and ethnicity, but also looks at the diversity he or she brings in other areas, such as gender, sexual orientation and identity, age, disability status, and beyond.
Since the LMJ Scholarship Program’s inception, MCCA has awarded more than $2.85 million to law students across the country. Awards are made possible with funding from sponsors such as Chevron, Groom Law, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Robert Half, Pitney Bowes, and various legal leaders, among others. This year, a total of $150,000 was awarded to 15 students.
“Advancing diversity in the legal profession begins with ensuring that a diverse pipeline of talent is coming through the door,” Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, said in a press release. “Microsoft is honored to help these talented individuals reach their full potential and achieve bright futures.”
Through the LMJ Scholarship Program, MCCA is doing its part to try to close the demographic gap in the legal profession. Supporting young, diverse, aspiring lawyers, Lee says, is a positive first step.
“If we are serious about increasing diversity and becoming a more inclusive profession,” she says, “we have to start by supporting talented law students from diverse backgrounds and enhancing their chances of success at every stage of their education and career.”