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When Jenny Rivera attended New York University School of Law in the mid-1980s, the only Hispanics she encountered were the defendants listed in the pages of her criminal law textbook. “This is not only disheartening but demoralizing,” said Rivera, now a professor at City University of New York School of Law. Yet since then little has changed, says Rivera, among others. There are still few Hispanic students and fewer Hispanic lawyers and professors. But a small group of law school administrators, professors, students and alumni are trying to turn that situation around. In 1999, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics constituted 11.7 percent of the American population. In the 1999-2000 school year, only 5.7 percent of the law school student body nationwide were Hispanic, according to the American Bar Association. And the number of Hispanic attorneys is even lower: just 2.5 percent of the country’s lawyers are Hispanic, according to the ABA. Also, there are slightly fewer Hispanics than other minorities: blacks made up 7.4 percent of the entire ABA-accredited law student body in 1999-2000, and Asian-Americans made up 6.3 percent. In all, there were 125,184 law students in ABA-accredited schools during the 1999-2000 school year, and only 7,120 were Hispanic. LAW SCHOOLS FOCUS “Data suggests that there is an underrepresentation of Hispanic students at law schools,” said Pace University School of Law Dean David Cohen. “We are going to see a significant change in the student body in the next 10 years.” To be well-positioned for that change, Cohen has started a campaign to court Hispanic students. Pace has successfully wooed the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund to hold its popular “Annual Law Day” for minorities on the Pace campus for the second year in a row. By offering room on campus, Pace was able to attract 150 minority candidates last year, hoping to raise its profile with Hispanic students. Unlike other schools, Pace paid for the space, breakfast and some of the advertising, leaving the Fund to pay only for lunch. “Pace has put out 150 percent to make this event successful. We have never had this type of relationship with any other law school in the 18 years that we have put on Law Day,” said Ileana M. Infante, the education director for the Puerto Rican group. But an annual event alone does not guarantee that minority students will view a law school as accessible and welcoming. According to Infante, who regularly meets with law students, Hispanics feel isolated at law schools because there are so few of them in the student body and even fewer among faculty and administration. Rivera, who counsels students, agreed. “Change the look of your school. Put minority faculty and administration in positions of power where they are changing the life of the school,” she said. Pace said it is interviewing for its first Hispanic professor. But the change will not happen overnight, warned Cohen. “This type of program will take three to five years to significantly transform an admissions culture,” he said. Pace is not the only New York school that has focused attention on the Hispanic community. In September, Hispanic Business Magazinevoted Fordham University School of Law one of the top 10 law schools in the country for Hispanics. Fordham was the only law school in the Northeast to make the list. Before 1999, Fordham hosted Law Day with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. It has one Hispanic professor and is seeking a second. Also, its chapter of the Latin American Law Students Association is active in recruiting. With Fordham footing the bill, the student organization hosts programs and a dinner for Hispanic candidates every year, according to Michael Lanzarone, a professor at Fordham and chair of the admissions committee. PROGRAMS FOR PROFESSION But some people are not leaving it up to the law schools to change the legal world. William Malpica, a first-year associate at Mayer, Brown & Platt is starting his own program to attract minorities to the legal profession. Malpica, a Class of 2000 graduate of Fordham law school, will match 15 high school sophomores with individuals in Fordham’s legal community, find them internships and offer free SAT preparation courses. His program, Pro Se Scholarship Fund, is expected to begin operating in the spring. Malpica is so determined to get the program under way that he asked friends and family to donate to the project in lieu of giving him graduation gifts. His effort has raised a few thousand dollars. Also, Malpica, with Mayer Brown and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, started a one-day program for newly admitted law students in the tristate area. Now in its second year, the program, “How to Succeed in Law School,” brings 50 students together with lawyers, professors and judges for a full day of workshops and networking. Another program aimed at nurturing minority students has been operating for almost three years in Upper Manhattan. Started by Julissa Reynoso, now a third-year Columbia Law School student and Ydanis Rodriguez, a New York City high school teacher, Dominicans 2000 encourages high school students to graduate and attend college. About 200 students meet every Saturday and learn from volunteer teachers how to succeed in high school and get into college. The students, many of whom are recent immigrants who attend Gregorio Luperon Preparatory School in northern Manhattan, participate in sessions about careers, college admissions, SAT courses, classes in English as a second language and community service. Gregorio Luperon Preparatory School is a transitional school for students who have been in the United States for less than four years and who need English language assistance. “We try to get young people into college and then to come back and help their community,” said Reynoso. “I not only want to help the community, but I also want to motivate people to help themselves.” RELATED CHART: Hispanic First-Year Students at New York Law Schools

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