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Overview

The Bridge to Law School Program is an initiative that integrates academic preparation, mentoring, and professional development to demystify the law school application process, the law school experience, and the practice of law for first-generation college students. The Program was developed by Shareholders Kelly O’Keefe and Melanie Leitman of Stearns Weaver Miller who lead the firm’s Tallahassee clerkship program. Over the years, they noticed the lack of diversity in the law clerk applicant and associate pool and saw the need to engage students earlier and build a “Bridge to Law School” for the broader population.

The Program is a partnership between Stearns Weaver Miller, the Florida State University College of Law, the William H. Stafford American Inn of Court, the Tallahassee Bar Association, and The Florida State University Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement (“CARE”) program. CARE is a multifaceted center that provides preparation, orientation, and academic support programming for first-generation and Pell-eligible college students who face unique challenges in college because of economic and educational circumstances.

Currently, the mentoring phase is underway. Mentoring teams consist of a CARE student, a law student, and an attorney from our local legal community who meet and communicate regularly. Mentoring teams also participate in networking and engagement events which are designed to broaden the students’ exposure to others in the legal profession, including judges, attorneys in private practice, attorneys working within local and state government, and attorneys working with non-profit organizations. With the help of this supportive network, mentees will learn how to translate their academic and professional experiences into a law school application portfolio and identify opportunities that will make them more competitive applicants. Currently, the program is available to FSU CARE and Law students in the Tallahassee region with future plans of expansion to other university and law school communities.

Most recently, the Program was selected as one of the 2024 Daily Business Review Diversity & Inclusion (Firm) Finalists and honored with 2023 Tallahassee Women Lawyers Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Award.

Want to get involved?

Contact The Bridge To Law School Program at btls@stearnsweaver.com.