California LAW Pathways Newsletter (December 2020)

A Message from your California LAW Pathways Advisory Board Chair

Seasons Greetings to all our Pathway Partners. This has been a very challenging year for us all. You have all done an incredible job teaching your students and keeping them engaged during these difficult times. With the distribution of the vaccine, this week should be the beginning of life for all of us returning to some semblance of normalcy.

CaliforniaLAW has been moving forward in 2020 making improvements in how it operates and communicating to its partners. This newsletter is the first in a plan to regularly inform everyone what were doing and what is being planned. We have created a new website with plans to continually add to and improve the content. We have added 4 new board members to the Advisory Board, 3 from educational institutions and one from a major California corporation. We have planned a great virtual Summit in February 2021 that I know you will all want to attend. We had two virtual events this Fall which were very successful with a high level of attendance.

2021 will be even better and you will see even more engagement by CaliforniaLAW and all our partners. Be safe an have a wonderful holiday.


W. Dave Smith, Chair of the Advisory Board, California LAW Pathways Program

Check out our new California LAW Pathways Website

Visit www.calawpathways.org to access helpful resources and stay on top of the latest information on our upcoming events and program offerings.

2021 Annual Pathway to Law Virtual Summit

February 17 –19, 2021 from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

We are excited to announce our 6th Annual Pathway to Law Summit will be hosted virtually on Zoom. California LAW Pathways hopes to carry on its tradition of bringing together our ecosystem of students, faculty, staff, and professionals in the law community to learn, network, and collaborate. This year's theme is "Tackling Civil Rights and Racial Injustice in a Pandemic".

2021 Summit Information

Summit Keynote Speakers:

  • Bryan Stevenson (invited), Social Justice Activist; Founder and Director, Equal Justice Initiative
  • Rhonda V. Magee, Mindfulness Teacher; Author; Lawyer
  • Lateefah Simon, Advocate for Civil Rights, Racial Justice and Juvenile Justice

Plenary Session Topics Include:

  • Destressing in a Stressful World- Doing Well in Spite of COVID-19
  • Getting Students Ready for the Workplace
  • Surviving and Thriving Amidst the Pandemic
  • What I wish I Knew About College & Law School
  • Effecting Change Through Community Action
  • Sharing the Journey- Our Law Pathway Changing Lives

Access the Summit Schedule here. Summit Registration Opens on Friday, December 18.

Submit Your Nominations for the 2021 Education Pipeline Award: January 22, 2021 Deadline

The Education Pipeline Award was established in 2008 by the State Bar of California to recognize outstanding efforts of law-related educational programs that train and support students to become interested in the judicial system and careers in the law. As of 2019, this award has been presented by California LAW Pathways. The Nomination Form and supporting materials must be emailed by January 22, 2021 to info@calawpathways.org.

See the nomination form and guidelines for details. For more information or questions about the form or process, please contact Patricia Lee at pdlee1121@gmail.com.

Cal LAW Student Alumni Spotlight

Name: Cristina Cabezas

Community College Attended: Santa Ana College

Undergraduate Attended: University of California, Berkeley

Current Law School: University of Oregon, and I am a 1L

How did you first get involved with California LAW Pathways program? I became involved with California Law in the Fall of 2019. At the time, I was taking paralegal courses, and a professor suggested I research the program given my long-term goal was law school.

How has the California LAW Pathways program impacted you personally and professionally? Through California LAW, I was taught by practicing lawyers who had insight into the legal field. As a first-generation American and student, this insight was invaluable because I did not know any lawyers before this exposure. Additionally, I was able to gain employment in a law firm because of a recommendation by one of my professors. Lastly, when I looked to apply to law school, I had individuals on my side that were willing to write me a letter of recommendation.

Personally, the program helped me see that law school was within my reach. The professors believed we could do it, and it boosted my confidence.

Why do you think it is important for an organization like California LAW Pathways to exist? These programs are important because as first-generation American and students understanding the process of attaining a law degree seems foreign. Many times, we are the first in our family to receive a high school degree, so a professional degree seems out of our reach. The California Law program helps us create a roadmap to access those higher echelons of academia. Additionally, Personally, I just needed exposure to what is needed, so I could equip myself to be a competitive candidate for law school.

What is next for you? What type of attorney or work do you look forward to doing once completed with Law School? Before starting law school, I thought I'd work in juvenile justice law. After one semester, I am leaving the doors open to any possibility. However, I do hope to one day teach at the community college level. As a product of the system, I am grateful, and I hope to be able to give back in that manner.

Meet A.J. Williams: Author of “It Ain’t Rocket Science: College Counseling for Everyone”

A.J. is the Admission liaison for Athletics recruitment for Santa Clara University. A.J. has worked in higher education for over 15 years and is a published author. His most recent book, “It Ain’t Rocket Science: College Counseling for Everyone” was published in May 2019. A.J. joined the Cal LAW Pathways Board in 2020

Tell me about yourself and what motivated you to write this book?

I am a former first-generation college student, an African-American male, a father of two young boys, a husband, and although I’m on the College Admission side of Higher Ed, I do consider myself to be an educator, as well.

Given my time and experience gained in the field -15 plus years worth- it is for all of those reasons that I wrote the book. I was lucky enough to have a strong village, filled with numerous individuals that helped along the way with my upbringing. The book is my attempt to help educate and fortify other people’s villages.

What was your intent in writing your book?

As I do anytime I write, I wanted to create something that was accessible to anyone that should happen to read it. In this case, any student, parent, counselor, teacher, concerned family member or friend, etc. Rich, poor, black, white, and any and everyone in between.

Society has built up the notion that going to college is an incredibly complicated process. And I wanted to remind folks that it really isn’t. Nor should it be.

Tell us about your book “It Ain’t Rocket Science: College Counseling for Everyone”?

It starts off with a look at demographics and socioeconomics, because numbers don’t lie. It’s important to know what the American populace looks like, where certain groups of people are concentrated throughout the country, and the connection between educational attainment and life outcomes.

It then touches on the Achievement Gap, and the underlying reasons behind it, as a way of letting the reader understand some of those systemic realities at play in all this.

So in essence, it starts with a conversation about those things that are outside of our control, before focusing on those things that are very much in our control as individuals. It touches on the different types of schools out there, the steps one should take in preparing for college, paying for college, the realities facing higher education, etc. all in about 150 pages.

What are the key takeaways you want a student, parent or educator to take from your book?

There are several, but I think the main ones are (1) an understanding of what the country actually looks like, because that will help inform all kinds of important discussions, (2) the correlation between educational attainment and life outcomes, and lastly (3) that the process of obtaining a college degree is not, in fact, rocket science; unless that’s what you’re studying.

I also think the Case Study exercise will be extremely useful for folks.

How has the remote environment impacted the college application process from your perspective?

The test-optional landscape has been the biggest change. Currently upwards of 70% of the nation’s colleges and universities have gone test-optional for the simple fact that students literally haven’t had the opportunity to take the tests due to the pandemic.

For some it’s a temporary measure, for others it’s a permanent change. For the students, especially for those historically disadvantaged by performance on standardized testing, generally speaking, this is the perfect opportunity to focus on the academic components completely within their control; their grade point averages, and the rigor of their coursework within the context of the school they attend. I hope they seize the moment.

California LAW Pathways Hosts Constitution Day 2020

On September 17th, over 200 faculty members and students logged on for California LAW's virtual Constitution Day event entitled "Black Lives Matter and the Constitution". Speakers included Erwin Chemerinsky (Dean, UC Berkeley School of Law) and Paul Henderson (Director, San Francisco Department of Police Accountability).

Law School Admission Council (LSAC) and California LAW’s Early Partnership

May 1 (Law Day) of 2015 was an historic day for the diversity pipeline in California. On that day, twenty-four California Community Colleges and six undergraduate and law school combined educational institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding to be part of an exciting new coalition to extend the education diversity pipeline into community college, undergraduate and law school therefore coining the term of “2+2+3”, i.e. 2 years of community college plus 2 years of undergraduate plus 3 years of law school.

Already in existence were eighteen high school law academies started in 2010 in a unique partnership between the California Department of Education and the State Bar of California. These high school law academies were structured as California Partnership Academies (CPA’s) following the requirements of Education Code Sections 54690-97. One of the legislative requirements mandates that 50% of each classroom be “at risk” students leading to classrooms in public high schools that were majority students of color. This is the population that was targeted for the State Bar’s diversity pipeline into the profession.

This goal of a more diverse legal profession in California stemmed from a serious lack of lawyers of color (19%) in a state that has 62% population of color. Clearly, the legal profession does not represent the people that it serves. Starting our pipeline was California’s remedy for building a pathway to law from 9th grade to law school – a 10 year diversity pipeline.

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) is a pioneer in pipeline projects and its belief in this pipeline was early on when its board awarded a start-up grant to build an organization to support this project and enable it to communicate, coordinate, collaborate and connect all its partners. Without this grant, California LAW would not be in existence. This grant enabled the building of a non-profit organization, built the first Advisory Board, connected the high school law academies and the newly-formed 2+2+3 initiative into one connected pipeline. It also supported the Interim Executive Director, Ruthe Ashley, to do all of the above as well as travel the state to meet with all community colleges bringing educators and legal professionals together to build their program. The formation of Advisory Councils for each school is an ongoing goal.

Kent Lollis, then Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at LSAC, continued his strong support of our annual Pathway Summits. As a trailblazer in pipeline work, his commitment and involvement were invaluable. Since his retirement, we welcomed Fe Lopez as his replacement at our Summit in 2020. California LAW is so appreciative to LSAC for its support and we look forward to a continuing relationship as, together, we work to build a diverse profession.

California LAW Academy Coordinator Spotlight

Name: Nam Kyu Kang

Title: Law Academy Lead

School: De Anza High School

Can you share a little about your personal and/or professional background. I started my work to end Educational inequity in 2016, where I worked as a program coordinator at CSU Bakersfield. There, I developed and managed various STEM-related projects to bring STEM education to low-income students all across Kern County. I found my love for teaching there and moved to Richmon, CA where I have been for the past 4 years. My professional aspiration is to close the gaps between our low-income students of color, and their affluent counterparts.

How did you first hear about the California LAW Pathways program? I was first introduced to California LAW in 2017 when I joined the Law Academy. I was introduced to Patricia and Ruthe early on in my teaching career.

Can you tell us about your experience as a Law Coordinator. It has been an interesting experience. Leading a team for the first time, through a virtual platform, has made the human aspect of leading a little difficult to experience. I prioritize relationship building in the workplace, so coVid has not helped much in that aspect of my profession.

I love being the Law Coordinator. I truly get to experience, on the systematic level, how I can improve the learning experience for our students. Whether that is providing more resources, or collaborating with my team for better projects, supporting our students has become easier as the Law Coordinator.

How do you think the California LAW Pathways program impacts the lives of students and contributes to diversifying the legal profession? I think California LAW provides the social capital our low-income students need to progress upward in our society. Even if students are not able to earn internships or jobs through the organization, just having the information available for our students is enough to help our students become aware of the opportunities that exist. Our low-income students lack the knowledge of the opportunities that exist, not the skills to maximize those opportunities.

Contribute to California LAW Pathways Program

Your donation to California LAW will help support our work to establish a pipeline of diverse students from high schools, community colleges, four-year institutions, and law schools into law or law-related careers so that the legal profession reflects the diverse population of California.

Learn More About our California LAW Pathway Partners

Member schools of Cal LAW include 21 high school law academies created under the California Partnership Academy model in a unique partnership between the State Bar of California and the California Department of Education (CDE). Started in 2011, law academies provide a 3-year curriculum starting in 10th grade with a focus on law and/or law-related careers and supported by the local legal community through advisory councils, mentoring, internships, classroom presentations, field trips, and other law-related activities. Additionally, it includes the Community College Pathway to Law School (formerly the 2+2+3) initiative with 29 California community colleges, 9 undergraduate universities, and their law schools, resulting in an educational pipeline into the legal profession. Learn more about each of our Pathway Partners:

High School Partners

Community College Partners

Law and Undergraduate School Partners

The California LAW Pathways Advisory Board

Advisory Board Members Not Pictured: A.J. Howell-Williams, Sylvia Macias and Shivani Sidhar

To contact the Cal LAW Pathways Program, please e-mail info@californialawinc.com.