Courtesy of Samuel Stuart Hollenshead

Though he was interested in law school, Stanford University student Sherlock Langevine was unsure if he could scale the barriers to entry required to apply: the cost of the LSAT and application fees, the stress of competing against applicants with legacy status and background expertise and an overarching sense of unpreparedness.

Then, Langevine said, he discovered Yale’s Launchpad Scholars Program.

Announced on Oct. 4, 2022, the program attempts to increase opportunity and equity in pursuing a legal education by helping members of underrepresented communities navigate their journey through law school applications. The program, funded in part by the law firm Latham & Watkins, accepted its first cohort of scholars this summer.

“Being accepted into this program is more than just a personal achievement; it opens the door to an opportunity I once thought was unattainable — attending law school,” Langevine wrote to the News.

The program, which has no application fee, is open to anyone interested in law school but places an emphasis on underrepresented applicants. Application requirements include an academic transcript, a resume, short answer responses and at least one recommendation letter. Scholars are selected based on their potential for “academic excellence, leadership promise, engagement with their communities and ability to work collaboratively with individuals from diverse backgrounds and with diverse perspectives,” as per the Law School website. 

The Law School administrators told the News that they hope to level the playing field for law school applicants from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.

“The goal of the Launchpad Scholars Program is to help law school applicants from backgrounds that are underrepresented at law schools and in the legal profession maximize their potential through support with every aspect of the application process,” Miriam Ingber LAW ’04, associate dean of admissions and financial aid, told the News. “Our first cohort of scholars are incredible: they come from many backgrounds and we are confident that they will be outstanding law students and lawyers in the future.”

Once accepted into the program, scholars partake in a year’s worth of activities meant to equip them to apply to law school. Though admission into the program does not provide special preference for  the general Law School admissions process, members gain access to events including a summit hosted by Latham & Watkins, substantial LSAT workshops and test preparation and mentorship opportunities with Law School students and Latham lawyers. The students are able to attend a monthly leadership and career preparedness workshop and have opportunities to visit various legal employers.

Scholars also receive financial support for LSAT testing, and the program covers the costs of up to six law school application fees.

“I was hesitant about applying at first because I had very little experience in the legal field and I was a STEM major,” Langevine wrote to the News. “However, I mustered a bit of courage when I read [the criteria that scholars are selected on] from the website.”

Langevine told the News that after submitting his application in the initial round, he received a call back for an interview with a member of the Law School’s admissions office. A few weeks later, he was informed that he was selected to be a scholar. He said that the application process was “streamlined,” as the Law School provided them with many resources on its website and application portal.

Langevine, who is a first-generation, low-income Black student, believes programs like Launchpad help break down the long-standing systemic barriers that have historically excluded minorities like him from the legal field. As an aspiring human rights attorney who aims to use data analytics to bring about transformative change in the legal field, Langevine said he believes that this program will take him one step closer to achieving his goal.

Over the summer, Langevine, along with all 24 of his fellow scholars, were welcomed to Latham & Watkins for the program’s annual welcome summit. The two-day event, which took place from Aug. 17 to Aug. 18, was filled with various workshops, info sessions and advice on navigating the legal profession.

During the welcome summit, scholars had the chance to interact with student mentors, whose role entails supporting the scholars throughout their law school application journeys. One student mentor, Chisato Kimura LAW ’25, spoke to the News on the importance of this role.

“If you don’t come from a background where you’re familiar with the legal field, or maybe you don’t have people in your family or around you who are lawyers, I think going to law school can be such a mysterious process, and applying can be such a mysterious process,” Kimura told the News. “I see my role as providing a little bit of support in that process.”

Kimura also told the News that she was able to relate to many of the scholars on a personal level, highlighting her shared background as a first-generation law student from a low-income, immigrant family. She emphasized that hosting the welcome summit at the Latham & Watkins building in the heart of New York City conveyed a strong message that “these scholars deserve to be in legal spaces.” 

Michèle Penzer LAW ’93, global chair of Latham’s recruiting committee, told the News that Latham & Watkins is committed to leveling the educational playing field for students who are underrepresented in the legal field, as they believe drawing students from all backgrounds will build “strong future lawyers.”

“We are proud to work with Yale Law School on the Launchpad Scholars program.” Penzer wrote in a statement to the News. “At its core, this collaborative effort has an altruistic mission; to provide underrepresented students from across the country unprecedented access to support, resources, and guidance regarding law school admissions. Our support for this important program goes beyond financial support, and that is by design.”

Applications for the second cohort of Launchpad Scholars are expected to open in March 2024.

Adam Walker is the University Editor of the Yale Daily News. He previously covered Yale Law School for the University desk. Originally from Long Island, New York, he is a rising junior in Branford College double majoring in Economics and American Studies.