February 24, 2024

The University of Dayton School of Law and Dayton law firms Thompson Hine and Taft have selected the first students for their Flyer Legal Pathways Program. The program is a new approach to improving diversity in the legal profession by recruiting future lawyers from underrepresented groups before they even enter law school.

Jessica Gassett and Lizzy Dobbins have earned full law school tuition, a $15,000 stipend for living expenses, mentors and summer clerkships, plus job opportunities at their sponsoring firm following graduation. They will start law school this fall.

“Rather than wait for diverse talents to apply to law school and then later to elite law firms, the Flyer Legal Pathways Program proactively seeks and recruits academically talented college seniors with the capacity to excel in the legal profession,” said Andrew Strauss, UD School of Law dean.

Gassett, a Howard University graduate from Cincinnati, will be the Thompson Hine Legal Scholar. Gassett, who works as a legislative aid to Ohio Rep. Willis Blackshear Jr., said it has been her dream to go to law school since high school.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to go to law school, and not only learn the law but be mentored by people advanced in their career,” she said.

Gassett also has worked for Sotheby’s in New York City; and has been a legal intern for MTV, Duke Energy and the Ohio Justice and Policy Center.

“Jessica has all the qualities you hope for in an aspiring attorney — intelligence, enthusiasm, ambition, natural curiosity, drive and, probably most importantly, passion,” said Christine Haaker, Dayton office partner-in-charge for Thompson Hine. “Thompson Hine and Jessica have such an incredible opportunity with this program to forge long-term relationships, with mentorship and legal experiences starting well before her first class and continuing throughout her law school journey. Jessica has been eagerly soaking in every moment.”

Dobbins, a Hanover College graduate from Cincinnati, will be the Taft legal scholar. She is a student recruiting coordinator for the law firm of Frost Brown Todd.

“It’s really great to be part of the legal community and to get to know some people at Taft before even stepping foot in law school,” Dobbins said. “It’s just been really great to meet mentors and have people giving me advice.”

She also has worked as operations manager for Heartfelt Tidbits, a nonprofit supporting refugees and immigrants living in southwest Ohio; and as a legal internal at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the law firm of Gerhardstein and Branch.

“It’s been such a pleasure getting to know Lizzy. She is an incredibly talented, driven and inspiring young woman, and we are honored to welcome her as one of the first Flyer Legal Pathways scholars. She already has impressed us with her exceptional experience, legal background, and her heart for giving to the community. Taft is very excited to continue working with her, providing experience and mentorship as we help guide her into the legal profession,” said Jennifer Hann Harrison, Taft Dayton partner-in-charge.

Any firms interested in being a partner of the Flyer Legal Pathways Program can contact Katie Wright, visiting assistant professor of lawyering skills, at [email protected].

The University of Dayton School of Law is committed to admitting people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. The School of Law was named one of the best law schools for African Americans in the winter 2020 issue of National Jurist’s preLaw magazines. A third of the school’s 2021 entering class were students from underrepresented and underserved populations. Students can participate in the Summer Diversity Clerkship Program, Minority Summer Externship Program, the Black Law Students Association, the Asian and Pacific Islander Law Student Association, and the Hispanic Law Student Association, to name a few.

The School of Law has been riding a recent wave of success, posting improvements in selectivity, median Law School Admission Test scores and GPAs of incoming students, and job placement. The School of Law attracted more applicants and more academically accomplished students by offering flexibility with additional options like an online hybrid JD program, 3+2 programs for faster completion of bachelor’s and law degrees, and a Leadership Honors Program featuring full tuition scholarships, custom- designed leadership training, and mentoring by prominent judges and lawyers.

Once here, all law students participate in a curriculum and support system geared toward passing the bar exam, plus programs that allow students to immerse themselves in specific areas of the law like the school’s Program in Law and Technology and collaboratives with UD’s Human Rights Center and Hanley Sustainability Institute.

To apply to the University of Dayton School of Law, visit https://udayton.edu/law/admissions/apply.php.

For more information on the program, email Katie Wright, visiting assistant professor of lawyering skills, at [email protected]. For interviews, contact Shawn Robinson, associate director of news and communications, at [email protected].

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