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Phoenix law firm extends ASU Law scholarship, fellowship program to improve diversity in legal field

By

Julie Tenney

When Nyla Knox, a JD student at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, was selected as the inaugural Fennemore Craig ASU Law Diversity Fellow, she said it was not only a relief to have the financial help, but to also know she had immediate mentors and support in ensuring her success in law school and beyond.

“I was going in blind when applying for law school as I don't know any lawyers, and I don’t have any lawyers in my family,” said Knox at the time she was awarded the scholarship in 2019 as a first-year ASU Law student. “I was figuring everything out on my own as I went. Receiving this scholarship and fellowship, establishing a relationship with Fennemore Craig and having experienced people who are willing to assist me has been a huge help.” 

What initially began as a partnership of Fennemore Craig and ASU Law to drive meaningful change by growing the pipeline of diverse candidates from the law school has been renewed by the firm for an additional two years so that more students like Knox get the support they need.

The continuation of the Fennemore Craig ASU Law Diversity Scholarship and Fellowship will offer financial support to future ASU Law students, backing pipeline and legal preparation programs, and aims to increase diversity both at its own firm and within the greater legal sector.

portrait of

ASU Law student Nyla Knox

“In effect, we doubled down,” said Bob Kramer, the firm’s chief talent officer. “Fennemore Craig is committed to ASU Law and its important work in our community. As diversity and inclusion is at the heart of our culture, we’re also committed to attracting and retaining the best possible candidates to our firm, helping to ensure that a diversity of thoughts and voices are ready to make an impact on our fellow colleagues, our clients and the communities we serve.”

ASU Law student Spencer Shockness, who completed his undergraduate degree at ASU with a double major in management and business law and is currently interested in pursuing a career in corporate litigation, was selected as the 2020–21 fellow.

“This opportunity has been incredible for me so far because not only has it set me up for financial success during my first year of law school, but the mentorship I have received from the attorneys at Fennemore Craig has been invaluable,” Shockness said at the time he was selected. “Fennemore Craig has gone over and above what I expected when communicating with me regarding advice, helpful tips and mentoring.”

portrait of

ASU Law student Spencer Shockness

For Fennemore Craig CEO James Goodnow, improving diversity in the legal profession is first and foremost the right thing to do.

“It is also critical to the legal profession if it is to continue to represent and provide legal advice and guidance to businesses, individuals, government agencies and organizations, which are themselves diverse and have customers and decision-makers who are diverse,” Goodnow said. “All law firms must be able to appreciate the nature of their clients and their goals and values, which can only be accomplished when those firms understand and appreciate the views of their clients, as well as any other parties involved, which are continuing to increase in diversity.”

Goodnow added that the firm recognizes that to improve the diversity of the legal profession, it is vital to improve the opportunities for and generate interest from a diverse group of students to pursue a law school education. Consequently, Fennemore Craig works with high schools, colleges and law schools to ensure that students from diverse backgrounds appreciate the legal profession as a career, and help ensure increased opportunities for those students who choose to pursue a law school education.

portrait of

Fennemore Craig CEO James Goodnow

“Our diversity scholarship and fellowship is one of our efforts in this regard and is intended to provide assistance and ongoing mentoring for a first-year law student to maximize their potential,” he said.

While his future career goals may change, Shockness said that meeting the diverse group of attorneys at Fennemore Craig has exposed him to what many areas of the law look like in practice. “I am more excited now about my opportunity to explore any of these paths postgraduation,” he said.

The firm is working to select its 2021–22 fellow and will be conducting interviews soon.

For more information on the program or to support ASU Law’s diversity programs, contact kelli.rael@asu.edu.