DEARBORN, Mich., Oct. 14, 2020—With the singular mission of bringing diversity to the practice of law, Ford Motor Company —with the support of its philanthropic arm, Ford Motor Company Fund, and Henry Ford Learning Institute—has developed the Ford Law Career Academy. The four-year program is launching in two metro Detroit high schools with an innovative curriculum designed to excite, inspire and empower students of color to explore a law career. It fills a void for a legal-themed career academy that introduces high school students to law as a profession.
“I’ve felt a responsibility to work toward diversity, inclusion and racial equality from the time I was just 8 years old, and that is the whole reason I went on to study law,” said Alison Nelson, Ford counsel and program champion. “I know what it means to have strong mentors in my life, and I want that same experience for today’s students of color. As the proud product of Detroit public schools, the first kid in my family to graduate college and the first to become a lawyer, I want this generation of children of color to be the last of the firsts.”
Ford Law Career Academy, created in cooperation with educators and Ford’s legal office, introduces students to a range of practice areas. It gives them the tools to take the first steps in developing the skills, mindset, knowledge and networking all lawyers need for success, while aiming to augment diverse representation within the field. Ford’s outside counsel will provide support through coaching, mentoring and internships.
Ford is collaborating with two charter schools serving Detroit-area youth —Henry Ford Academy and University Preparatory Academy High School —to pilot the program. Students begin elective coursework as freshmen and progress through four years of learning that includes law theory, mock trials and field training with law firm partners. It culminates with a senior thesis-type project, with graduates prepared to go on to a university to pursue a formal prelaw curriculum and then law school. Henry Ford Academy is launching a slightly modified program this academic year, while University Preparatory Academy High School will launch fall 2021.
Right now, African Americans make up 13.4 percent of the U.S. population, but only 5 percent of lawyers are African American—the same as 10 years ago. With educational achieve