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Since 1999, the Bar Association of San Francisco has tackled diversity by pairing high school students with mentors and tutors to help young people get into college. Now the organization is reaching its next stop in the pipeline: undergraduates at Bay Area colleges. This fall, BASF is rolling out a new pre-law program targeting underrepresented college students, Yolanda Jackson, the group’s deputy executive director and diversity director, said in a recent interview. The goal of “Destination: Law School,” as the program is called, is to put the option of law school on students’ radar, then keep them on target. “We’re hearing from students that unless you’re in a particular network, you still don’t know very much about the law school application process,” Jackson said. So far, schools that have signed on are the University of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, University of California — Berkeley, California State University — East Bay, University of California — Davis, Dominican University of California in Marin County, Golden Gate University, and City College of San Francisco. BASF will be reaching out to Santa Clara University, San Jose State University and Stanford University, said Jayne Salinger, the bar’s director of special projects. The initiative is two-pronged. One part will send BASF staff — as well as practicing lawyers, judges and law school instructors — to two- and four-year college campuses to speak about how law school can be an option and to answer questions about everything from the application process to law school rankings. In the second part, BASF will organize courses that will run from October through March 2009, in partnership with the Council on Legal Education Opportunity. These will cover an introduction to law school by professors, an admissions workshop that will include conversations with deans for tips on what an application should look like, a segment about the law school experience from the perspective of law students and conversations with practicing lawyers about employment options for newly minted J.D.’s. All speakers will be volunteers, Salinger said. CLEO pre-law coordinator Lynda Cevallos said that her organization launched its own free pre-law seminars last fall in Washington, D.C., with 12 undergrads. By March, the monthly classes had grown to 52, she said. The program also ran in Chicago in the spring with 25 students. CLEO keeps a database of students that it will share with BASF. They include some from two seminars that have already taken place at UC-Berkeley School of Law, Cevallos said. Another seminar is planned at Hastings College of the Law in January. BASF hatched its idea last year, Salinger said, when Jackson said she wanted to patch a hole in the bar’s pipeline program that was already helping high school students, through the “School-to-College” mentoring program, mock trial participation and a law academy that places students in paid internships at Bay Area law firms. “Yolanda recognized that we needed to create a solid pipeline, which included the undergraduate years,” said Salinger, who handled the reconnaissance mission into college campuses to figure out what was missing. Salinger talked with student organization leaders, affinity group chairpersons, counselors, professors and deans about the needs of students. “What we have discovered is that there aren’t really any other programs attempting to achieve what we’re trying to achieve,” Salinger said. “We’re going to be helping students navigate the entire process. This is going to be a very comprehensive program.” In the future, the bar also plans to find a way to offer affordable LSAT preparation courses, Salinger said, either through low-cost classes or scholarships. “That’s the biggest obstacle,” she said. “LSAT prep courses. The kids can’t afford it.”

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