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HCBA is New Home for the Minnesota Minority Clerkship Program
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News Release: September 18, 2013 

Minneapolis: --  At its September meeting, the Board of Directors of the Hennepin County Bar Association (HCBA) unanimously and enthusiastically acted to provide leadership and support for the Minnesota Minority Clerkship Program (MMCP).

The HCBA took action at the request of representatives of the local law schools and of participating law firms who expressed a strong desire for the program to continue after the Minnesota State Bar Association decided this summer to discontinue its sponsorship of the program.  Representatives cited its value to minority law students, to the recruitment efforts of law schools, and to the local legal community.  They were concerned that discontinuing the program, which has, since 2006, given clerkship opportunities to 142 students at the end of their first year of law school, would be a setback to the diversity and inclusion goals that many local firms and law-related organizations have been working to achieve.

HCBA leadership believed the arguments for taking on this additional commitment were compelling.  "The first-year minority clerkship program complements the diversity pipeline initiatives we have been pursuing over the past few years. Our recent efforts to create connections among local lawyers, and between local lawyers and the broader community, would ring hollow if we turned away from this opportunity to connect law students of color with the established legal community,” stated HCBA President Eric Cooperstein in announcing the unanimous action by the Board of Directors, Executive Committee, Diversity Committee, and Community Relations Committee.

Cooperstein emphasized that the HCBA, which serves the most populous and diverse county in Minnesota, has an important role to play in establishing the authentic and lasting connections that retain lawyers of color within this region. "This also may provide us with an opportunity to partner with others to provide needed funding and support for this important program,” added Cooperstein.

HCBA leadership noted particularly the need for mentorship and relevant experience for law students of color, understanding that they often lacked local relatives and family friends in the legal community who can be relied upon for guidance on the nuances of working in the profession. Such ties are inherent, yet often unacknowledged, advantages as new lawyers seek to establish themselves in practice locally.

The HCBA will implement the Minority Clerkship Program in its existing form during the current year, but will also work to enhance the program – especially for law firms and legal employers – in time for next year’s participants.