UW News

April 15, 2015

UW School of Law’s Gregoire Fellows Program to advance diversity in the legal profession

School of Law announces Cregoire Fellows Program to increase diversity in the legal profession. A photo of former Washington governor Christine Gregoire.

Christine Gregoire

The University of Washington School of Law, supported by a number of leading Puget Sound-area businesses and law firms, has announced the creation of the Gregoire Fellows Program to help bring greater diversity to the school and the legal profession.

The gap between diversity in the legal profession and that of the United States population has widened in recent years, according to the 2013 Microsoft-commissioned Raising the Bar study. The Gregoire Fellows Program, which starts this spring, was designed to address that gap — to develop a pipeline of diverse law students and support them throughout their education.

“If we are to realize our goal of leadership for the global common good and of creating a legal profession as diverse as our society’s makeup, we need to encourage more under-represented students to enter the legal profession,” said Kellye Testy, dean of the School of Law and Dean and Judge James W. Mifflin University Professor. “This innovative partnership will help us better reach students who are currently pursuing other paths. Moreover, by enhancing diversity in our classrooms we will enhance our academic excellence for all students.”

Nine fellows chosen for their potential to increase diversity in the legal world will be named as part of the school’s entering class this fall. They will receive paid summer internships with participating law firms and departments after the first year of study, and financial assistance with bar exam preparation at the end of their studies. The fellows also will have opportunities to participate in a mentorship program by Christine Gregoire, former Washington state governor.

“In Washington, diversity is a community value, and it gives our state a base of strength and knowledge on which to build our future,” Gregoire said. “We know that most law school graduates remain in the state to practice after graduation. The fellows program offers the potential to increase diversity in both the legal profession and the judiciary to better represent our growing and diverse population in Washington.”

The UW School of Law is ranked in the top 10 among public law schools nationally and has a longstanding commitment to diversity and equality, yet faces many of the same challenges as law firms do in recruitment and retention. With this program, the school hopes to increase diversity in the legal profession by closing a large gap between the number of under-represented students admitted to the school and the number of those who ultimately enroll.

King County has grown increasingly more diverse in recent years, with 30 percent of residents identifying themselves as African-American, Asian, Hispanic or mixed ethnicity in the most recent census. However, the Washington State Bar Association reported that all minorities represented only 12 percent of its membership in 2012.

“Diversity needs to be one of the core values of the legal profession, and it needs to become even more central than it is today,” said Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs for Microsoft, one of the program’s initial sponsors. “I believe we each have an important role to play in advancing diversity, and we are thrilled that so many Seattle-based legal entities have come together to create the Gregoire Fellows Program to increase diversity in the legal profession in King County and Washington state.”

Corporations confirmed as providing initial support in the 2015-16 school year include Amazon.com Inc., Starbucks Corp., Microsoft Corp., Nintendo of American Inc., Seattle Genetics Inc., Vulcan Inc. and Weyerhaeuser Co. Law firms confirmed for initial support are

Davis Wright Tremaine LLP; Foster Pepper PLLC; K&L Gates LLP; Lane Powell PC; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP; Perkins Coie LLP; and Stoel Rives LLP. Program organizers say participation by other firms and companies is welcomed.


Members of the press wishing more information may contact the Rapid Response Team at Waggener Edstrom Communications for Microsoft at 503-443-7070 or rrt@waggeneredstrom.com; Michelle Lancaster of Microsoft at 425-705-3324 or milanca@microsoft.com; or School of Law Dean Kellye Testy at 206-543-2586 or lawdean@uw.edu.