Who We Are
Explore Law encourages students historically excluded from law schools and legal professions to consider law as a viable pathway, and supports them as they travel that path. Explore Law is a partnership between UT, Huston-Tillotson University, and Austin Community College. Explore Law provides law school curricula delivered by Texas Law faculty, law school literacy and persistence (e.g., admissions, rankings, finances, stress maintenance, community building, mental wellness), and legal professional prospects, including networking, mentoring, and interning. The primary goal is to engage students during the first half of their college careers to give them an immersive and authentic introduction to law school early enough that they can make informed decisions about their longterm plans.
What We're Fundraising For
Administered via the College-to-Career Initiatives within UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Explore Law is a collaborative partnership with Texas Law (a top fifteen law school), HT, and ACC. Each annual cohort consists of up to 30 sophomores and juniors divided roughly evenly across ACC, HT, and UT. Students receive stipends for completing the summer program. Stipend payments are yoked to active participation and completion of expectations. Many of the students would be unable to participate without this financial assistance. Donations to this fund help provide these much-needed stipends. The core curriculum is a four-week summer experience where students spend over 100 hours engaged in coursework, legal research, presentations, field trips and networking events. The capstone of the summer is a legal research and writing course taught by faculty. This course, modeled on Texas Law’s first-year (1L) writing classes, asks students to read and annotate case law, draft predictive memos, and prepare and present oral arguments in front of a panel of judges. Following the summer experience, students have a clearer sense of the law school application process, including LSAT preparations, first-year expectations, clinical and doctrinal curricula, and career possibilities. They will have access to LSAT prep courses at no cost. Students continue to receive multi-year support focused on their specific needs, with an emphasis on concrete prelaw planning.
Since 2015, one hundred and forty students from ACC, HT, and UT have completed Explore Law. Alumni represent nearly thirty majors, and have a median GPA of 3.5. Program demographics—61% of alumni have family incomes below $50,000, and 50% are first generation—illustrate the program’s commitment to serving high-priority students. Over 97% of alumni are from communities historically excluded in law schools and the legal profession. 90% of alumni indicate that they are still on the path to and through law school. Alumni are attending and graduating from laws schools across the state and country, including Texas Law, Texas Southern University, St. Mary’s (Texas), University of Southern California, Notre Dame, and Yale University. Most participants indicate that the program “exceeded their expectations.” Participants emphasized their appreciation for the depth of exposure to law coursework and the range of legal jobs, the breadth of contacts they made, the practice with networking “soft” skills, and the attendant gain in confidence from their involvement. Participants enjoyed sharpening their critical reading, analytic writing, and public speaking, along with their time management. They appreciated the opportunity to challenge themselves. One participant talks, fondly, of finding the experience both “exhilarating” and “extremely nerve wracking.” A common refrain from participants is that they felt “better” after completing the program: better prepared, better informed, better equipped, with better chances of applying to and attending law school. “It helped me get a well-rounded view of law scholars, and gave me a road map of what I should be doing,” is a representative example of the feedback. For a few, participating confirmed that law school was not for them, but even these participants remarked that the program was vital in helping them make their decision. For the majority, though, participating in Explore Law helped confirm what they already knew, that they are definitely heading towards law school. “I was hoping this program would confirm that [law school] was what I wanted to do,” writes one, “and it did exactly that. This program was both challenging and rewarding.” Almost every participant valued the supportive learning community. “Everyone who came to talk with us was happy to answer our questions,” remarked one participant, “and I feel as though they generally cared about our futures as young professionals.” Donating to Explore Law helps ensure that this deep and unflagging support remains sustainable.