Law students from underrepresented backgrounds rise to top posts

A Georgetown University Law Center program for students from underrepresented racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups recently graduated its first cohort and is poised for expansion. Launched in 2018, the RISE program provides community and career development opportunities throughout students’ law school careers. Dozens of students in the inaugural RISE cohort earned their law degrees this May, graduating with leadership experience and promising career prospects.

From first-year programming to ongoing support

At its inception, RISE was designed to support students in the fall semester of their first year but has since expanded to span all three years of law school. Students apply to participate in RISE the spring before their first year, and those accepted to the no-cost program attend a rigorous “pre-orientation” week in August before classes begin.

During preorientation, RISE fellows bond with others in the Georgetown Law community, take mock classes, complete simulated homework and exams, and strengthen their leadership and professional skills. Across their first year, RISE fellows participate in small-group programming and are paired with peer mentors and teaching fellows.

Those community-building and career-pathing activities continue across RISE fellows’ upper-class years, bolstered by philanthropic and mentorship support from Georgetown alumni.

An accomplished first cohort

As they graduated last month, fellows in the inaugural RISE cohort said the program has enabled them to build a strong community and valuable skills. Toni Deane (L’21)—the first Black student ever to serve in the top post of the school’s flagship law journal—says her experience as a RISE fellow gave her the courage to pursue that role and to overcome feelings of “imposter syndrome” while leading the journal. Deane now plans to take on a pair of back-to-back federal clerkships in the coming years.

Classmate Minahil Khan (L’21)— a Muslim woman who is a first-generation college graduate—similarly says the program gave her the confidence to join the Appellate Litigation Clinic and argue a case before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. RISE “just helped me really feel like this is something that I can do,” Khan said.

Recounting how RISE helped him develop note-taking and test-prep skills, Dyllan Brown-Bramble (L’21), a Black man who is the first in his family to attend law school, said the program helped fellows “to think about those things really early on.” A scholar at the Law Center’s influential Institute for Technology Law & Policy, Brown-Bramble has received several prestigious fellowships and will start his career at Latham & Watkins this fall.

Fellows in subsequent RISE cohorts are making their mark, too. Agnes Lee (L’22) is the first undocumented immigrant to serve as the law journal’s top editor; Jade Baker (L’22) is the first Black woman elected to serve as president of the student body; and Jordan Metoyer (L’22) is the first woman of color to head up Barristers’ Council.

Other RISE fellows are leading “affinity groups”; editing other Law Center journals; and serving as law fellows, resident fellows, and peer advisors. Many have landed coveted judicial clerkships across the country.

Future expansion

William M. Treanor, dean and executive vice president of Georgetown University Law Center, says the school will soon hire a full-time program manager to oversee RISE’s day-to-day operations. Leaders of the RISE program—which will enroll between 105 and 110 students this year—hope the new hire will allow for additional support for legal and exam writing, expanded career path offerings, and a formal mentoring program with interested alumni.

“RISE is training the leaders of the future, both of the student body and the profession,” Treanor said. “It’s very clear that helping students from underrepresented backgrounds thrive in law school pays great dividends for all. We’re building on this program in the hopes of multiplying its great impact.”

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