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Washington law schools work to attract Latino, Native American students to legal careers

Courtesy of Gonzaga University

Gonzaga and the two other law schools in Washington hope to attract more Latino and Native American students to be attorneys.

They’ve announced plans to market the profession to students at Heritage University in Toppenish. Most of the students there come from underserved communities.The law schools at Gonzaga and the Universities of Washington and Seattle University will sponsor a three-week intensive course at Heritage. Lawyers, including faculty from the universities, will teach about the legal profession and law school. State Supreme Court justices will visit. Susan Lee, the assistant dean of students at Gonzaga Law, says students will get exposure to people involved in a system often seen as intimidating.

“We really need mentors. We really need exposure for these students to say, “Yes, yes, I can. Yes I can go to law school. Yes I can go to college. Yes I can earn a higher degree,” she said.

Several private legal organizations, including Columbia Legal Services and the Northwest Justice Project, helped to design the program. It’s funded by a grant from the national Law School Admissions Council.

The goal is to build a pipeline of students from Heritage University in Toppenish to law schools in Washington and other states. Heritage is one of only two universities in the nation designated as both a Hispanic Serving Institution and a Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institution.