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Foundation creates new fellowship program, awards scholarships

A 2014 law school graduate will serve immigrant clients in Sacramento for one year under a new fellowship program launched last month by the California Bar Foundation.

The foundation described its new fellowship program as the first of its kind in the state. The goal of the program is to increase legal services while also cultivating career opportunities for attorneys from diverse backgrounds. The $65,000 award granted to the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation covers the salary and benefits of a full-time attorney for one year.

The first fellow will be Marcus Tang, a 2014 graduate of University of California Davis School of Law.

“Advocates like Marcus Tang are reshaping and redefining the legal profession, and ultimately helping the justice system work better for all Californians,” said Julie Taylor, president of the board of directors of the California Bar Foundation and partner at Keesal, Young & Logan LLP.

Also last month, the California Bar Foundation awarded 15 scholarships to students from communities that have been historically underrepresented in the legal profession and who are committed to careers in public interest law.

The scholarships, which include a stipend for living expenses and a bar review course, went to third-year students from 11 law schools who have demonstrated commitment to a wide range of social justice issues. A number of the recipients are first-generation Americans and several are the first in their family to attend college.

“The financial burden of practicing in the public interest exacerbates efforts to recruit attorneys, particularly those who themselves are from underrepresented and under-resourced communities. Unlike most students entering private practice, aspiring public interest lawyers are responsible for the costs of studying for and taking the bar exam,” California Bar Foundation Executive Director Sonia Gonzales said. “The Diversity in the Public Interest Bar Exam Scholarship alleviates one hurdle toward a fairer, more accessible justice system.”

The 2015 scholars include graduates like Susan Lopez, who grew up in a predominantly immigrant community – an experience that fostered her commitment to serving immigrant populations as a legal advocate.

“With the Foundation’s support I am prepared and confident as I take the California Bar Exam, the last hurdle to being of service to the immigrants from communities like that where I grew up,” said Lopez, of the University of West Los Angeles School of Law.

Since 1997, the foundation has given more than $400,000 in cash awards and bar review courses to more than 300 graduates of California law schools.

In addition to Lopez, the other 2015 scholarship recipients are: Stacy Villalobos, Stanford Law School; Hong Le, University of California Berkeley School of Law; Gerloni Cotton, UCLA School of Law; Elizabeth McCullough-Sanden, University of California Irvine School of Law; Arifa Raza, UCLA School of Law; Catherine Nguyen, Santa Clara University School of Law; Nicole Marquez, Stanford Law School; Nerissa Irizarry, William Mitchell College of Law; Shannon Laoye, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; Evelina Nava, University of California Berkeley School of Law; Jeanette Hawn, University of California Davis School of Law; Daniela Molina, University of California Berkeley School of Law; Terrance David, Southwestern Law School; and Hyun Lee, University of California Irvine School of Law.

The scholarship recipients, fellowship recipient Tang and the winners of other awards bestowed by the bar foundation will be recognized at a Sept. 17 ceremony at the offices of Morrison & Foerster LLP. California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger will be the keynote speaker.