The Engagement Pillar of LawReady™: Cultivating a Sense of Belonging and Inclusion in Pursuing a Law Degree and a Legal Career
By Elanda Williams and Krista Mattern
For the past two months, we’ve been posting a series of blogs highlighting the pillars of LawReady. After featuring the navigation pillar in February and the academic pillar last month, we are now focusing on the program’s engagement pillar for the last installment in the series.
The design of the engagement pillar is focused on increasing feelings of inclusion and belonging as students pursue a law degree and a legal career. Research has shown that students who feel like they belong and are included tend to have better academic outcomes as compared to students who do not.
LawReady could never (nor is it the program’s intent to) replace the meaningful work of prelaw advisors who provide personalized support to their students. Rather, the hope is that LawReady becomes a trusted partner of prelaw advisors by providing national prelaw resources and content so that they can spend their time on other important pursuits such as 1-on-1 student interactions, which will drive engagement and feelings of belonging.
Including engagement in the design of LawReady supports LSAC’s mission to advance law and justice by encouraging diverse, talented individuals to study law and by supporting their enrollment and learning journeys from prelaw through practice. Students inherently recognize the value of community and engagement. A prospective law student shared the following with us when asked whether LawReady would be of interest to them:
“I think that this program offers so much. It not only gives students a much wider range of knowledge about what it means to have a legal career, but it also builds a community,” the prelaw student said. “It helps students engage with others on the same career path and makes them feel like they are not alone, which is very appealing to me.”
Components of the Engagement Pillar
The engagement pillar has three main offerings — an engagement module, a mentorship program, and learning communities organized around shared interests and experiences. In addition to program offerings, we will offer resources to faculty to support an inclusive classroom as well as review all LawReady materials externally to ensure fairness and inclusion are an integral part of the product design.
Engagement Module Covering Topics on Belonging and Inclusion
The LawReady engagement module will provide students with access to online, asynchronous skill-building curricula and success workshops. Students can enroll in the engagement module each semester and have access to new workshops. Topics covered in the program include Belongingness in Law School, Making the Transition into Law School, Is Law School the Right Fit for You?, What Is Law School Like and Do I Belong?, and What Is Growth Mindset and Why Does it Matter? Additionally, students can connect with peers via discussion threads throughout the LawReady platform.
Mentorship Opportunities Designed to Foster Engagement
Mentorship opportunities provide mentees with guidance, advice, knowledge transfer, and feedback from professionals in specific fields. LawReady has developed the LawReady Mentorship Program — a 12-month, national, virtual mentorship program designed to pair students with licensed legal professionals.
Representation in the legal profession is more important than ever. To ensure that students of all socioeconomic statuses, races, ethnicities, cultures, sexual orientations, and gender identities are supported, LawReady will pair students with mentors who fit the students’ specific needs, including background characteristics, location, and area of practice. This will enable students to engage with and learn from professionals who they identify with, thus helping them see themselves succeeding as a legal professional.
LawReady mentors will connect with students to share industry knowledge and build awareness of the law school experience and careers in the legal field. Students will meet with their mentor via the LawReady virtual platform on a monthly basis for 30 minutes, using activities designed to support meaningful mentee-mentor conversations. These activities include working with mentors to set realistic goals, listening to a podcast series regarding law school and careers in the legal profession, and brainstorming ideas together on how to develop personal statements.
Peer-to-Peer Engagement Through Learning Communities
Students who engage within learning communities can ultimately expand their academic networks and potential career paths. To foster interactions and support among peers, LawReady has designed learning communities for students, faculty, and mentors to connect, learn, and work across higher education institutions. These learning communities will be offered within the LawReady platform to connect participants who have similar interests or the desire to gain and share new perspectives around career plans, fields of study, and social interests.
Participants will be automatically enrolled in specific learning communities but will also have the option of enrolling in learning communities that fit their personal interests. While specific topics will be moderated by the LawReady team, participants will be able to post their own discussion topics, thereby fostering engagement with their peers and building a sense of community.
Faculty Resources and External Review
Staff and faculty interacting with students in the LawReady program will have access to resources to support student engagement. The resources cover topics around cultivating an inclusive classroom experience and also include a syllabus review guide. Additionally, all LawReady materials will go through an external fairness review process prior to launch.
Tracking Engagement Components for Law Schools
Throughout the program, student participation in the engagement components of LawReady — along with the navigation and academic components — will be captured and displayed in a digital portfolio that students can share with prospective law schools. The hope is that the benefits of LawReady’s engagement pillar will extend far beyond students’ time in the program; specifically, the community of peers, faculty, and mentors that students establish during LawReady along with their increased sense of belonging will serve as a continued support system as they transition to and through law school.