Minorities are about 58 percent of the 151 law students, and 48 percent are women. The law school is ranked in the top five on The Princeton Review's ranking of best environment for minority students.
"If there aren't enough Latinos or African-American lawyers to represent their communities, you can't achieve the level of quality and fairness that we strive to achieve in the U.S.," said Cesar Alvarez, executive chairman of Greenberg Traurig. "It's almost as breaking the barrier, and the way to do it is one graduate at a time. Your children are going to feel that this is a normal thing that my mom, father and brother did, and it's an expectation that can be accomplished."
The school plans on using about $500,000 of the money raised for summer stipends for students who want to clerk or extern with judges.
"I thought that the scholarships and stipends were a way to provide for students that need it most," Acosta said. "Working for a judge provides invaluable experience, but you don't get paid. Some people can't afford to do it, and the stipend will provide a small amount to support students."
FIU's law school, which was created in 2000 when Governor Jeb Bush pushed the project through the state Legislature, is the only public law school in South Florida.
"I'm the first person in my family to go to law school," said Al Avila, managing partner of Avila Rodriguez Hernandez Mena & Ferri in Coral Gables, Fla. "I think what attracted us to this scholarship was that so many of my partners could identify with those first-generation students going on to law school. It probably resonates more with us that can identify with those first-generation students."