The University of Baltimore School of Law's Fannie Angelos Program—the most successful program of its kind for legal education—earned the prestigious Diversity Leadership Award by the American Bar Association for 2017. The Fannie Angelos Program was honored for "promoting full and equal participation in the legal profession," according to a letter from the ABA to the school. The award was presented to the Fannie Angelos Program on May 3, 2017 during the ABA Section of Litigation's annual conference in San Francisco.
Michael Higginbotham and Michael Meyerson, the Dean Joseph Curtis Professor of Law and the DLA Piper Professor of Law, respectively, are the co-founders of the Program and are known in the law school as "the two Mikes" for their solidarity in strengthening the diversity program since its inception in 1995. In 2014 the Program was renamed to honor the legendary Baltimore lawyer Fannie Angelos, LL.B. '51, who wanted her legacy to be about finding talented young lawyers and inspiring them to overcome obstacles on their path to becoming great litigators and advocates.
The Fannie Angelos Program represents a revolutionary approach for addressing the lack of diversity in legal education and the legal profession. It has established a collaboration between the School of Law and Maryland's four historically black colleges and universities—Bowie State University, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Coppin State University and Morgan State University.
"We do not consider ourselves a diversity program," says Prof. Meyerson, director of the program. "We are a talent search. We have found that if you discover talent and truly level the playing field, diversity will happen."
Each year, eight applicants are chosen as Fannie Angelos Scholars, qualifying them to receive a full-tuition scholarship to attend the School of Law. Additionally, the program provides for up to 72 other HBCU students to attend a rigorous LSAT review course to help them gain entry to law school.
"We've reached a point in the program where some of the area's most prestigious law firms are asking for Angelos Scholars," Meyerson says. "But it's not just a story about successful lawyers—it's how talent opens doors and gets attention."
The Fannie Angelos Program not only helps students from the HBCUs gain admittance to law school; it also encourages them to excel in their law school classes, and then helps them find jobs upon graduation.
"Our students have overcome the odds," Prof. Higginbotham says. "It could be poverty, racism, or other socioeconomic barriers that present a significant obstacle to their success. Yet they still thrive. All of us have deep respect for what these students have achieved. They have a drive and a focus that shows through in so many ways. And now the ABA is taking notice."