CLEO, Inc.

March, 2024 – Issue 12

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 32,000 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 Edge Podcast Season 2 Ep. 2
CLEO COO, Leigh R. Allen, II, sits with CLEO EDGE Diversity Award Honoree the Honorable Judge Phyllis D. Thompson, Senior Judge, District of Columbia Court of Appeals. 
Hear Judge Thompson share her personal history and passion for Washington, DC. Learn about her educational journey, academic experience, and motivational persistence to reach the top of her class and beyond.


CLEO EDGE Honors Reception & Awards Program April 11th, 2024

Join us Thursday, April 11th, the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc. (CLEO) will recognize and honor four individuals that have made significant accomplishments, or demonstrated commitments, to Education, Diversity, and Greater Equality in the legal profession.

RSVP to join us today.

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

Airrion Beard, Jr.
Southern Illinois University School of Law
Class of ‘26


Q1. What was your course of study in college?
In an attempt to prepare for the heavy load of reading and writing that comes with law school, I majored in English and minored in History while in undergraduate school. Since the whole basis of law is serving the public and its people, I studied Public Administration in graduate school.

Q2. How did you become interested in pursuing law?
When I was in elementary school I was asked to do a project discussing where I saw myself twenty years from then. Being required to discuss a career and not knowing what I wished to do at the time, I researched multiple careers with the help of my parents until I stumbled on the field of law. In my research, I came across Thurgood Marshall and was inspired by the accomplishments that an African- American man was able to have during that particular time. Learning that someone who looked like me accomplished the feats that he did made me think why not me and motivated me to pursue a career as an attorney. I have stayed consistent with that dream ever since.

Q3. What steps did you take to prepare for law school?
Outside of the CLEO Pre-Law Summer Institute, I also attended CLEO’s Junior Jumpstart to the LSAT and ASAP programs. In addition, I was fortunate enough to gain multiple mentors in high school and college who were able to help me prepare for law school.

Q4. How did you find out about CLEO?
A mentor of mine knew of CLEO and the great work that the program does. She encouraged me to attend the JLSAT program in Washington, DC in Spring of 2017. After that experience I continued to be involved in CLEO and its programs.

Q5. What benefits did you receive by participating in the CLEO Pre-Law Summer Institute or 1L-Prep Attitude is Essential?
CLEO’s Pre-Law Summer Institute is one of the best decisions that an aspiring law student can make to help prepare for their 1L year. It’s probably one of the closest things that you will get as far as a simulation for what to expect during the first year of law school. Law school is a fast paced experience, and the PLSI gave me an introduction on the work load and time management skills that were essential for my 1L year. It also gave me comfort for the start of my first year of law school.

Q6. What helped you cope with the stress of law school?
I am a very faith-based person, and made sure to stay grounded with that. Also, since law school was my first time living away from my home city and away from my family, I made sure to call or text them as often as I could. Exercise is also essential to stay stress-free so I continue to weight-lift most days in the week, as well as joined intramural flag football and basketball teams with other law students. Lastly, but definitely not least, finding a good group of friends and surrounding people in law school was definitely a good to stay stress free and enjoy the process.

Q7. After law school, what are your legal career plans?
I have not decided exactly what specific area law I wish to practice. There are many avenues that can be taken with a JD outside of actually litigating and practicing as an attorney. But I do know I want to practice law after graduating law school and passing the Bar.

Q8. Do you volunteer or intern with any legal organizations?
Although I currently do not intern during the active semester, I have acquired an internship back home for the Summer.

Q9. Do you have any advice for future lawyers?
Definitely prioritize your mental health and happiness. Law school can be a stressful process that requires a lot of work and we can often forget to enjoy the moment and the accomplishment that is being a law student. I think the best way for a law student to this is by finding time to do activities that they enjoy, as well as finding moments in the day to just sit and enjoy where they are and where they wish to be.

Q10. What motivates you to be part of the legal profession?
Knowing that as an attorney I will be the advocate for someone who is in need motivates me to be the best professional that I can be. An attorney is someone who is entrusted to advocate for what is essentially the fate of another person. So knowing this as an aspiring attorney and current law student, I am driven to be the best I can for the legal profession.

An Encouraging Word from Airrion:
Law school is a tough process that tests you beyond what is done in the classroom. Like all things worth pursuing law school is not easy. But it is also something that is beyond worth it. There two things I encourage all future law students to do once they become a student. One, keep something with you that motivates you keep going when times get tough. Two, find a good circle of people because you will not be a lone and the support will go a long way during your journey.

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

After a long winter, seven friends – Janelle, Kosrae, Liana, Manny, Nancy, Opal, and Pru – arrive at a beach resort and settle in for a well-deserved break.  Five of the friends settle into a row of beach chairs by the pool – labeled A through E as pictured below – while two other friends decide to go explore the local town. Given the clues below, can you determine:

  • which friends explore the town?
  • which friends stay by the pool?
  • which chair each friend by the pool sits in?

  1. Janelle sits by the pool, but does not sit next to Opal. Janelle sits in neither chair A nor chair E.
  2. Opal sits by the pool and sits between two other friends.
  3. Kosrae and Pru either sit by the pool next to each other or else explore the city together.
  4. If Liana sits by the pool, she sits in chair A but cannot sit next to Opal.
  5. If Manny sits by the pool, he cannot sit next to Janelle.

Solution: Kosrae and Pru explore the town. Liana sits in chair A; Janelle sits in chair B; Nancy sits in chair C; Opal sits in chair D; Manny sits in chair E.

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

Natalie Ocanas

South Texas College
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley


Q1. How did you find out about CLEO?
I was introduced to CLEO through Professor Susie Chapa, as I mentioned to her my future aspirations in the legal field, and she recommended this program. Professor Chapa had worked with Lynda Cevallos from CLEO many years ago to put together Pre-Law information sessions for her students.

Q2. When did you realize you wanted to attend law school?
It has been my dream since I was a child to become an attorney. Growing up there were many instances when I felt defenseless and unsure of how to approach situations. Looking up at heroes or people I felt safe around, attorneys were those superheros to me.

An attorney has an obligation to defend their clients and advocate for their rights, through strategy and perseverance I believe I can be that person. Being able to wake up every day and do this as a profession & live this lifestyle is exactly the path I want to take in life.

As an attorney I want to commit my career in the fight for justice. Winning on the behalf of my clients & providing them with the legal guidance and representation they need is the success I am after.

Q3. What did you learn during the CLEO program you attended?
During the Road to Law School Pre-Law program CLEO hosted I learned the expectations of a law student and the discipline that needs to be dedicated to law school. I was given exceptional advice on what to include for my personal statement, pointers for my law school application, LSAT resources, and insight perspectives from professionals in the field about what the profession consists of on a day-to-day basis.

Q4. How has the CLEO programs influenced your preparation for law school?
 By reminding me to stay disciplined in studying, specifically reading and writing. As mentioned during the Pre-Law program I was taught that reading and legal writing will be the foundation of my legal career – these areas specifically are utilized for effective communication in the field. The success of the professors and attorneys inspired me to continue striving to work hard as this career is achievable but will require me to put in the work and time.

Q5. Select one of the CLEO programs (ASAP, JJ LSAT or CLEO Connection) you attended. What portion of that program was most beneficial to you and why?
CLEO’s The Road to Law School Pre-Law program was extremely insightful, specifically the most beneficial to me was speaking to attorneys and other professionals in this fields. I was able to ask questions of attorneys who had gone through the law school journey and receive applicable advice for my own journey.

Q6. Do you plan to attend any future CLEO events?
I will definitely be attending future CLEO events!

Q7. Do you have any advice for other aspiring lawyers?
Coming from a background of many adversities, I understand life might not deal you the best of cards, but through these hardships you are being molded for greatness. Something Professor Chapa once told me was “if you have a desire to do something you will accomplish it.” There are opportunities and resources all around us, find them and utilize them to achieve your goals. Work for the career and lifestyle you want for yourself, stay disciplined and stay resilient in every area of your life.

Q8. Do you have any additional comments about CLEO?
CLEO has been an amazing resource that has given me the opportunity to connect with other peers pursuing the same career, law school professors, and attorneys in this field which has been fantastic. CLEO has programs truly designed to train and prepare our future lawyers while preparing students to succeed in their own law school journey!


Amber Jackson - CLEO’s Pre-Law Summer Institute (PLSI)

The March 2024, CLEO Alumni Spotlight is on Amber Jackson, Esq., 2009 PLSI (Pre-Law Summer Institute), Associate General Counsel, Office of Government & Legal Affairs at DC Water.

Connect with your Pre-Law Advisor Early and Often, In-Person or Online

Maya Russell, M.A., J.D.
Furman University
PLANC Chair | SAPLA President

At three times in my life, technology has intervened to sustain connection. First, at age six, when my father relocated us to the Australian gold fields and schooling and interactions with my teacher and classmates was only available in the form of a two-way radio. Second, at university, when email was new, and being assigned a school email address meant that while studying abroad we were able to stay connected to our classmates back home. Third, during the recent COVID period, when the transition to virtual learning and advising allowed pre-law advisors to stay connected with their students.

I too often talk with students at my institution as well as others who confess that they have not met with their Pre-Law advisor. Technology has come a long way since those two-way radios and the technology of today provides Pre-Law advisors and students an opportunity to connect, no matter where they are located! I strongly recommend that students who have not yet connected with their Pre-Law advisor to reach out well in advance of starting the law school application process.

Post-COVID, I believe most of my Pre-Law advisor colleagues would agree that if given the opportunity, we would love to meet with our students in-person. That way, we can get to know our students over time and provide support for students to explore majors that inspire passion while complementing strengths, help locate opportunities to investigate legal careers, and ultimately support our students while they prepare strong application materials for great fit law schools. Advisors who have an opportunity to get to know students over time, in advising sessions, or inside or outside the classroom have an advantage of being in a better position to provide helpful advice simply because in knowing their students well, they are likely better able to understand the goals of their students. What is more, in earning the trust of their advisees, advisees are more likely to listen to the advice being shared. To this end, I echo what my colleague Erin Reichelt stated, in CLEO JD Issue 11, that students should get to know their

Pre-Law advisors as early as possible and ideally well before they are ready to engage in the law school application process.

I understand that not all students and alumni are positioned to meet their Pre-Law advisors in person. Geography, work conflicts, or family responsibilities may limit in-person meetings and technology – Zoom, Teams, phones – provides the perfect opportunity for students and alumni to connect or stay connected. I have met with students and alumni (on Zoom or WhatsApp) working out of state, studying abroad, serving in the military, or serving abroad in the Peace Corps or on a Fulbright. I look forward to these meetings and I love that technology sustains our connection.

I encourage all law interested students to connect to their Pre-Law advisors, early and often. If currently on campus, schedule an in-person appointment to connect with your pre-law advisor. If an in-person meeting is not an option, email your advisor to find ways that technology can help you connect!  Give your Pre-Law advisor an opportunity to connect you with resources and find ways to support you on your path to the legal profession.

TIP: Students can find their Pre-Law advisor contact information on their LSAC account dashboard.

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

Colorado Law
University of Colorado Boulder

Colorado Law is strongly committed to Inclusiveness and Diversity

The institution works to "provide a supportive and diverse educational and scholarly community in a place that inspires vigorous pursuit of ideas, critical analysis, contemplation, and civic engagement in order to advance knowledge about the law in an open, just society". Through cultivating work opportunities and engaging in legal community initiatives, Colorado Law is demonstrating its dedication to a consistent and meaningful journey towards inclusivity and justice. 

Visit Colorado 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

Sabrina Acloque, Esq.

Director of Development and Grants

Julie D. Long, BS, CAP, PACE

Vice President of Finance and Administration

Dominique Moss, M.Ed.

Director of Law School Initiatives