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Susie Cho ’05:  Supporting Seton Hall Law in Building Diversity in the Legal Profession

Diversity_Banquet_2010In this new series, Seton Hall Law recognizes alumni who give their time and energy to strengthen law school programs and services for the benefit of the students who follow in their footsteps. In this issue of Seton Hall Law News and Events, we spotlight Susie Cho ’05 and her leadership role on the Seton Hall Law Diversity Council.

At Seton Hall Law, diversity in all its forms is an essential part of its mission, vision and values. The Law School has long been committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive academic environment, and has been a leader in developing initiatives and scholarship programs to recruit a diverse student body.

The challenge is great: the legal profession does not yet reflect the diversity of our nation and is far less diverse than many other fields. In an effort to help increase diversity in the law, as well as to promote a diverse and inclusive academic environment, in 2008 Dean Hobbs created the Diversity Council, an advisory body comprising faculty, alumni, administrators, staff, and representatives from the Law School’s many diverse student organizations. Professor Solangel Maldonado serves as the Council’s chair.

The Council has two main objectives: support Seton Hall Law’s efforts to recruit students from diverse backgrounds, and help increase awareness of the concerns of a diverse student population, while engaging the entire Law School and legal community in addressing those issues.

The Diversity Council meets as a whole each semester and through its subcommittees – Subcommittee on Diversity in the Legal Profession; Subcommittee on Student Life; and Subcommittee on Diversity Initiatives in Student Recruitment – provides advice and suggestions to develop new programs and enhance existing initiatives that support the Law School’s diversity efforts. Last Fall, the Diversity Council hosted the Third National People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference, the largest gathering of diverse faculty in the nation.

Susie_Cho_2005_c2Susie Cho ’05, an associate with Deloitte Financial Advisory Services (pictured at left and above, at the 2010 Diversity Banquet with Professors Marc Poirier and John Kip Cornwell), was one of the founding members of the Council’s Executive Committee and also chairs its Subcommittee on Diversity Initiatives in Student Recruitment.

Cho explains her dedication to the Council’s mission: “We live in one of the most diverse areas of the world. If we want to be effective as attorneys and represent our clients well, we must be sensitive and aware of the needs of our clients as well as of our colleagues. You could lose a client or even a case because you said something hurtful – simply out of ignorance. It’s important that we foster that sensitivity in law school so students gain legal knowledge, as well as experience working with a wide variety of people – both clients and classmates.”

Professor Maldonado believes that alumni feedback is invaluable in shaping the Council’s direction and initiatives: “As practicing lawyers, our alumni bring unique perspectives and ideas on how Seton Hall Law can best do its part to help diversify the legal profession and address issues of concern to students and lawyers of diverse backgrounds.”

One of the Diversity Council’s primary objectives is to further diversify its applicant pool. As the chair of the Subcommittee on Diversity Initiatives in Student Recruitment, Cho says, “We develop ideas to improve student recruitment. In particular, we want to support and enhance the pipeline programs that the Law School already has in place.”

Pipeline programs serve to introduce students to opportunities in the law well before they must plan their college courses or prepare for the LSAT. One recent initiative to promote diversity in recruitment was Discover Law Day, which took place on February 12 and was hosted by Seton Hall Law and Rutgers School of Law-Newark. The program, held for college freshman and sophomores, gave diverse students a chance to learn from alumni, current law students, admissions officers, and faculty about how to begin making choices as undergrads that will lead them along the path to law school.

“Discover Law Day is a fantastic program. It gave these students a realistic look into why they should – or perhaps, shouldn’t – come to law school,” says Cho. “Many of the students who attended this program had the exposure to resources and information they may not otherwise have been able to access. The Admissions office and Diversity Council members – professors, staff, students and alumni – put a tremendous amount of work and effort into making this a successful day.”

Seton Hall Law also sponsors the Summer Institute for Pre-Legal Studies, an intensive program for college students who want to explore a career in law. Founded in 1980, Pre-Legal has been tremendously successful: more than 80 percent of program participants who apply to law school have been accepted.

In addition, Seton Hall Law sponsors the New Jersey Law and Education Empowerment Program (NJ LEEP), which provides urban youth, from middle school through high school, with intensive law-related and other college preparatory educational programs. Founded in 2006, NJ LEEP will see its first graduating class of high-school seniors, all of whom have received college acceptances. Schools including Rutgers, Drew, Fairleigh Dickinson, Penn State, Moravian and University of Hartford are pleased to welcome NJ LEEP students.

Seton Hall was also one of the first law schools to create an alternative admissions program, the Legal Education Opportunities program (LEO), for students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. Founded in 1978, the LEO program now boasts more than 500 alumni.

The Diversity Council also co-sponsors NJ LEEP’s annual fundraising event, Diversity in the Legal Profession, Diversity in Leadership. This year’s event will take place on Thursday, April 14 at the Newark Club and will honor Judge Joseph A. Greenaway, Jr., United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; Russell Deyo, General Counsel at Johnson & Johnson; and the Johnson & Johnson Law Department.

“I consider it a real honor to participate on the Seton Hall Law Diversity Council,” Cho says. “It gives me a chance to voice an opinion that will reach the Law School’s leaders."