Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, a prominent law firm, has made a striking alteration to the eligibility criteria for its prestigious Gibson Dunn Scholarship. The firm’s decision to amend its scholarship description has ignited a whirlwind of controversy and legal action.
Gibson Dunn Scholarship : Changes to Scholarship Criteria
Previously, the scholarship was awarded to “rising 2L law students who identify with an underrepresented group in the legal profession and who have demonstrated resilience and excellence on their path toward a career in law.” However, the firm has now excised the reference to “identify with an underrepresented group” from its website. The scholarship is now described as being open to 2L law students “who have demonstrated resilience and excellence on their path toward a career in law.”
Legal Ripples and Morrison Foerster’s Parallel Move
Gibson Dunn’s decision to modify its scholarship criteria follows a similar adjustment by Morrison Foerster LLP, another prestigious law firm. Morrison Foerster, in the wake of a lawsuit filed by a conservative group, decided to revise the eligibility criteria for its own diversity fellowship program. The lawsuit against Morrison Foerster, brought forward by the American Alliance for Equal Rights, alleges that their diversity fellowship programs violate Section 1981 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code, which safeguards equal rights protection. The legal action seeks to prevent both firms from considering race as a factor when selecting fellows.
The Catalyst: Edward Blum
Behind the American Alliance for Equal Rights stands Edward Blum, an influential activist. Blum played a pivotal role in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June, which dismantled race-based admission practices at institutions like Harvard and the University of North Carolina. This legal challenge, known as Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard, set the stage for a wave of litigation surrounding affirmative action in workplace hiring.
Gibson Dunn Scholarship : Scholarship Perks Remain
Notwithstanding the alterations to the eligibility criteria, those fortunate enough to secure the Gibson Dunn Scholarship are still entitled to a $50,000 scholarship and a coveted summer associate position in one of the firm’s offices, according to information available on their website. The selection process considers a range of factors, including students’ life experiences, backgrounds, academic performance, extracurricular activities, and their “demonstrated commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.”