CLEO, Inc.

December, 2023 – Issue 11

Welcome to The CLEO JD Report. We will share tips on how to prepare for and succeed in law school, get legal profession insights from our CLEO alumni, and get to know our Partners-In-Law law schools that are making a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc. (CLEO): is a 501(c)(3) national non-profit organization that was founded in 1968 to expand opportunities for underrepresented students to attend law school. Since its inception, more than 30,000 students have participated in CLEO’s programs and joined the legal profession.

As 2023 comes to an end, I want to take a moment to thank you for supporting and believing in CLEO. 

Your generosity enables us to bring students from underrepresented backgrounds together to discover ways to manifest their dreams and ways to change the world, along with themselves.

In 1968, the Council on Legal Education Opportunity was established as the first national program of its kind to coordinate and recruit students to participate in programs that would build a pipeline to the legal profession with a stream of talented students from minority backgrounds.

Today as we embark on our Year End Giving Campaign, our goal is to continue to serve more students, but we can’t do it without your help!

Please join us by making a gift this year.


Juan Carlos Polanco, Esq., MBA
President and Chief Executive Officer

CLEO President and CEO, J.C. Polanco, at the DEIB Power the Pipeline Conference

Highlights of our President and CEO Juan Carlos Polanco’s participation in the DEIB Power the Pipeline Conference 2023. From insightful discussions on pipeline programs to CLEO’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, read the full article. Join us in celebrating our dedication to shaping a more inclusive legal landscape!

Defending Access: Persevering Diversity Pipeline Programs

In a pivotal and insightful Zoom meeting discussion, our President and CEO, J.C. Polanco, recently served as a distinguished panelist, delving into the profound implications of the ‘Harvard Affirmative Action Decision‘ on diversity-focused organizations like CLEO. Read the full article and watch the video.

Read Secrets of a Law Student’s success & how CLEO can help YOU!

Menen Pierre
Penn State Dickinson Law School
Class of ’26

Q1. What was your course of study in college?
I always knew I wanted to help people and I felt like I would be able to help people understanding the law, so I majored in criminal justice in my undergrade and graduate studies as well.

Q2. How did you become interested in pursuing law?
I grew up in St. Lucia and I didn’t grow up in a very affluent household. I remember we had one encounter with the system where we weren’t able to get any help from the police or any type of lawyers because we didn’t have the finances to do so. We would always see justice being granted to people who had the money and who had access to it. When I moved to the Bronx, I also saw the same thing happening where justice was afforded to people who had the means, so that inspired me to pursue law. I wanted to advocate for people who didn’t have the finances or the access to the best of the best lawyers.

Q3. What steps did you take to prepare for law school?
In undergrad I was a part of the pre-law society. We would talk about the LSAT, the different steps that we had to take to get to law school, and a lot of tours on various law school campuses (especially outside of New York so we were exposed to something different). I also did the Penn State Explorer Law program, so we sat in on simulated law school classes. CLEO was also a step I took to prepare for law school.

Q4. How did you find out about CLEO?
Before I came to law school, I worked as a paralegal at a law firm and one of my attorneys was a CLEO alumna. I remember when I first got the job, I knew I really wanted to go to law school, and she would always pass along resources to help, and CLEO was one she highlighted often. She always stressed that we participated in the program!

Q5. What benefits did you receive by participating in the CLEO Pre-Law Summer Institute or 1L-Prep Attitude is Essential?
A lot. I think participating in the PLSI program really gave me the foundational skills that I needed. When you start law school, you almost get thrusted into things, but going through the PLSI program, I knew how to prepare for classes, I knew how to read and brief cases, and manage my time a lot better. Also, during PLSI, they gave us mentors, and so I sought that out very early on when I came to Penn State Dickinson, but overall, it gave me the tools I needed to succeed in my first year of law school.

Q6. What helped you cope with the stress of law school?
Sleep! I never believed in pulling all-nighters, so I’ve been treating law school as my 9-7. Any time after that, is time to decompress. I go to bed really early, because I believe when I get a good amount of rest, I can be alert and active in class and have the energy to study throughout the day. I get a lot of rest, and I try to exercise every now and then. I also take time to disassociate from law school and spend time with students not talking about law school. Sometimes we just go to lunch and decompress from the rigor of it all.

Q7. After law school, what are your legal career plans?
Right now, I’m leaning towards criminal law, I think I would like to be a prosecutor and help victims of crime. I would love to work in a DA’s office, but recently I’ve been gravitating towards federal criminal law. So I’m also considering federal practice as well, but it’s still early on.

Q8. Do you volunteer or intern with any legal organizations?
I volunteer with the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Justice and Equity. I knew I wanted to do this early on in my law school career because I knew a lot of people would be very heavily focused on academics and probably wouldn’t focus on extra-curriculars, so I wanted to separate myself by volunteering. I also served this semester as a Pardon Coach. I was working with a client on his pardon application so he could have a better opportunity for a second chance at life again, and that was very fulfilling.

Q9. Do you have any advice for future lawyers?
I would say prioritizing rest. It is so easy to become the hamster on the wheel because of the demands of the field, but I think it’s very important for us to prioritize rest. Community is also important. Because the demands, it’s easy to isolate yourself, but community has been rejuvenating in my experience.

Q10. What motivates you to be part of the legal profession?
Apart from the injustices I observed growing up, my family motivates me. My parents have made so many sacrifices to give me a life that they had never had. I would love for them to see the fruits of their labor. That motivates me to pursue law and make them proud.

An Encouraging Word from Menen:
As a person of color who didn’t have the finances to the best law school test prep, and someone who didn’t do the best on the LSAT, I thought that I did not deserve to be here. Now being in law school and being in class with other people who are smart, and falling within the average of my class, I’m finding more and more that I do deserve to be here. Don’t allow an LSAC performance or the lack of resources to better prepare you for that to deter you from pursuing law school. I have CLEO to thank for that.

By Bernie Chimner, Co-Founder & LSAT Instructor, GriffonPrep (

After a wonderful afternoon watching a performance of The Nutcracker, seven friends – Alex, Bertha, Channing, Devin, Elba, Felicia, and Greg – have decided to make a day of holiday celebration by seeing the newest holiday movie. They hail two taxi cabs – one yellow and one red – with four friends in the yellow cab and three friends in the red cab.  Based on the clues below, can you determine which friends ride in which cab?

  • Alex and Bertha do not ride in a cab together.
  • Channing rides in the cab with Devin but not with Felicia.
  • Felicia and Greg do not ride in a cab together.
  • If Bertha rides in the yellow cab then Elba must also ride in the yellow cab.


Solution: Alex, Channing, Devin, and Greg ride in the yellow cab; Bertha, Elba, and Felicia ride in the red cab.

Read Secrets of a Pre-Law Student’s success & how CLEO can help YOU!

Michael Theodore

Florida State University, Class of 2012
University of Las Vegas, Class of 2018
University of Chicago, Class of 2021

Q1. How did you find out about CLEO?
I [found out] about CLEO during an internet search. I was interested in learning about organizations that help first-generation college students help, advice, and support before, during, and after the law school application process.

Q2. When did you realize you wanted to attend law school?
After my second master’s degree from The University of Chicago. While working at the finishing stages of my MA Thesis, I noticed how intentional questions about the law (qualified immunity as an example), kept coming up during my qualitative interviews. At that point I realized I wanted to go to law school.

Q3. What did you learn during the CLEO program you attended?
I realized that the Imposter Syndrome is an unequivocal imposter. I learned that sometimes we create obstacles in our mind that anchors us down and negates us from taking that leap of faith towards our law school journey.

Q4. How has the CLEO programs influenced your preparation for law school?
It made me feel more confident to reach out to people from my graduate schools for powerful letters of recommendation.

Q5. Select one of the CLEO programs (ASAP, JJ LSAT or CLEO Connection) you attended.

Achieving Success in the Application Process (ASAP)

What portion of that program was most beneficial to you and why?
The Financial Aid session helped me realize that some scholarships are tethered to conditions. In addition, I also learned the importance of having the will to go above and beyond LSAT preparations because the higher the LSAT score, the more of an opportunity I may have to secure the type of law school scholarship that could have a fundamental impact on the way I live financially, after law school.

Q6. Do you plan to attend any future CLEO events?
Maybe in the future, as a proud alumnus.

Q7. Do you have any advice for other aspiring lawyers?
As long as your “why” answers the question on why law school is right for you, that’s all that matters.

Q8. Do you have any additional comments about CLEO?
CLEO is one of the best decisions you will ever make for the entirety of the law school application process. CLEO will emphasize to you that there are incredible people from the legal world that have a vested interest in your success. I am thankful for my CLEO experience. 

Eduardo Reyes Chávez - CLEO’s Pre-Law Summer Institute (PLSI)

CLEO alumnus, Eduardo Reyes Chávez, participated in CLEO’s Pre-Law Summer Institute (PLSI) in 2013. After finishing the program, he went on to earn his JD from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law in 2016.

Now an Associate at Littler Mendelson, and a member of the CLEO Advisory Council, Eduardo’s practice focuses on a broad range of labor and employment matters. He represents clients in litigation, counsels on workplace privacy and information security, and defends employers against discrimination, retaliation, and harassment claims.

Prior to joining Littler, Eduardo worked as an attorney in the United States Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAGC). While in the Navy JAGC, Eduardo gained extensive litigation experience and was exposed to a plethora of employment and privacy law matters, including successfully litigating contested trials, securing favorable guilty pleas, and effectively negotiating alternate dispositions.

Before commencing his Naval service, Eduardo worked as an associate attorney in Seattle. He focused his practice there on general civil litigation, primarily working on employment law cases and commercial disputes.

In this two-minute video, Eduardo touches on the invaluable knowledge he obtained while attending the CLEO PLSI and why he recommends it as a viable path for others to take who hope to attend law school and then, like him, join the legal profession.

Maximizing Your Pre-Law Advisor

Erin Reichelt
Associate Director for Pre-Law Services
University of Minnesota

Choosing to pursue a career in law is an exciting step, but navigating the complex and competitive world of law school admissions and legal careers can be daunting. Fortunately, Pre-Law advisors are there to help you through that process.

After working with Pre-Law students for the past 10 years, I’ve developed a few tips for students on how to get the most out of their relationship with the Pre-Law Advising office at your college.

    1. Start Early: The earlier you establish a relationship with your Pre-Law advisor, the better.  Begin engaging with your Pre-Law office as soon as you have even a vague interest in law.  They can provide valuable guidance on course selection, extracurricular activities, and internships that can set you on the right track.
    2. Build a Strong Relationship: Take the time to get to know your Pre-Law advisor and let them get to know you. Building a strong relationship can lead to more personalized advice and recommendations tailored to your unique strengths and goals.
    3. Utilize Resources: There is so much information out there about law school! Checking out your advising office’s website, modules, webinars, or those that can be found on other public sites (such as will help your sessions to be more focused on what you need as an individual.

How can your Pre-Law advisor help you? This really can depend on the amount of support that exists within your university, but LSAC will help you to identify WHO your Pre-Law advisor is. Typically, they can assist you in a number of ways:

    1. Exploring the legal field: Your Pre-Law advisor can help you identify relevant student groups, classes and internships. These experiences will provide you with valuable exposure to the legal field.
    2. Preparation for the LSAT: The LSAT is a critical component of your law school application. Your Pre-Law advisor can offer advice on LSAT prep courses, study strategies, and resources that might be more specific to your university.
    3. Financial readiness: Your Pre-Law advisor can help you to identify free resources to study for the LSAT, and guide you through the process of applying for the LSAC fee waiver and other scholarships.
    4. Personal Statement and Application Review: Pre-Law advisors are experienced in reviewing personal statements and applications. Seek their feedback to craft a compelling personal statement and to ensure your application is polished and stands out.
    5. Stay Updated: The legal field is dynamic and ever evolving. Stay updated with the latest trends and developments by discussing them with your Pre-Law advisor and making sure to read any communications from them.

If you have access to a Pre-Law office at your college or university, take advantage of it! They are a great resource to support you on your journey toward law school.

Marquette University
Law School

Do deals. Right wrongs. Protect Freedoms.

Marquette Law School hosts a series for JD students examining the impact of race on doctrinal 1L courses and legal practice areas (e.g. Contracts, Criminal Law, and Constitutional Law). The Law School participates in the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Diversity Clerkship Program, an initiative that places students in full-time summer employment in private law firms, corporate legal departments, and governmental agencies. The annual Marquette Lawyer/Student Diversity Reception is an invaluable networking opportunity for law students (and prospective students) to connect with diverse alumni and other members of the Wisconsin bar and bench. The Law School co-sponsors the annual Wisconsin Statewide Pre-Law Diversity Conference & Law Fair.

Visit Marquette University

Quinnipiac University School of Law

Embraces Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion

At Quinnipiac Law, our mission is to create a diverse and inclusive community where every member is acknowledged, respected, and has the necessary resources to thrive, both individually and together. We incorporate inclusive excellence in everything we do to create a globally engaged, culturally rich and highly collaborative campus. Our policies and programs celebrate differences as sources of strength and empower everyone to embrace who they are and share their experiences, customs and beliefs. Our goal is to foster conversation, exposure and engagement with all people, thoughts, and ideas — from all corners of the world.

Visit Quinnipiac Law

University of New Hampshire
Franklin Pierce School of Law

Top 5 Reasons to Choose UNH Franklin Pierce

  1. We prioritize community over competition.
  2. We reward hard work with scholarships.
  3. Our students tackle real cases while still in law school.
  4. We are dedicated to a diverse equitable, and inclusive environment.
  5. Our camps is in Concord, New Hampshire.
Visit UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law
CLEO 23 - UB Law

CLEO, Inc. is proud to include many of the nation's premier law schools in our Consortium on Diversity in Legal Education.

Fordham University School of Law
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
Marquette University Law School
University of Colorado Law School
University of Idaho College of Law
The University of Mississippi School of Law
University of New Hampshire School of Law
Quinnipiac University School of Law
Vermont Law and Graduate School
Washburn University School of Law

Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law
Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Cornell Law School
St. John’s University School of Law
St. Thomas University College of Law
University at Buffalo School of Law

Baylor University School of Law
Boston University School of Law
Florida International University College of Law
Mercer University School of Law
Michigan State University College of Law
Mitchell Hamline School of Law
New York University School of Law
Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
Oklahoma City University School of Law
Southern Illinois University School of Law
Texas A&M University School of Law
The University of Kansas College of Law
The University of Texas School of Law
The University of Tulsa College of Law
University of Denver Sturm College of Law
University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law
University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School
University of Richmond School of Law
USC Gould School of Law
Washington and Lee School of Law
Widener University Delaware Law School


Juan Carlos "J.C." Polanco, Esq., MBA

President & Chief Executive Officer

Leigh R. Allen, II, MBA, MS

Chief Operating Officer

Lynda Cevallos, Esq.

Vice President of Academic Affairs

Julie D. Long, BS, CAP, PACE

Vice President of Finance and Administration

Iris Martinez Juergens, BA

Director of Development and Grants

Dominique Moss, M.Ed.

Director of Law School Initiatives