CLEO, Inc.

May, 2023 – Issue 9

Welcome to The Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc. (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.


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

Bruce Leal
American University
Washington College of Law, 2L
Washington, DC

Q1. What was your course of study in college?
I studied Psychology and Philosophy at The George Washington University.

Q2. How did you become interested in pursuing law?
After graduating from GW, I taught U.S. History and Government in a special education setting through Teach for America and served as a Public Policy Fellow with the Hawai’i Board of Education. These experiences exposed me to systemic inequalities in our public education system and allowed me to work with lawmakers on developing equitable education policy for multilingual learners and students with disabilities. Working in local, state, and federal government on a broad range of policy issues helped me to see how the law could be used as a vehicle for positive change.

Q3. What steps did you take to prepare for law school?
I took courses on Constitutional Law in college, studied for the LSAT, connected with law students and attorneys, and participated in CLEO’s Pre-Law Summer Institute.

Q4. How did you find out about CLEO?
I learned about CLEO through a law school fair during my junior year of college.

Q5. What benefits did you receive by participating in the CLEO Pre-Law Summer Institute or 1L-Prep Attitude is Essential?
During CLEO Pre-Law Summer Institute I got a head start in Contracts, Civil Procedure, and Legal Writing, received intensive preparation for law school exams, and got connected to a diverse network of rising attorneys across the country.

Q6. What helped you cope with the stress of law school?
Boxing and early morning workouts.

Q7. After law school, what are your legal career plans?
After graduation and bar exam preparation, I am eager to use my skill set to make a difference. Whether that be continued public service or practicing privately in an area of interest, I look forward to putting my passion and commitment to excellence to work.

Q8. Do you volunteer or intern with any legal organizations?
I am the Co-Chair of the National Advisory Committee for Equal Justice Works, a member of the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on the U.S. Territories, and an incoming Summer Fellow for the Indigenous Peoples Unit at Pine Tree Legal Assistance Pine Tree’s IPU represents individuals and families facing legal problems because of their status as Indigenous People, including tribal land usage, wills and estate planning to reservation properties, the Indian Child Welfare Act, border crossing rights, treaty rights, and other rights arising under Federal Indian law. I will be working with tribal, state, and federal agencies to retain housing and benefits for tribal members. I will also be representing Indigenous People in tribal and state court proceedings.

Q9. Do you have any advice for future lawyers?
Every break, every journey requires a moment of reflection, and ours is no different. Take time to reflect on the personal victories and lessons learned. Let the stories of your struggles and triumphs remind you of the reasons you choose to fight another day.

Q10. What motivates you to be part of the legal profession?
From the first Black female Supreme Court Justice to the first Native American President of the American Bar Association, the landscape of the legal profession is transforming into one that better serves all communities and brings us closer to our commitment to equal justice under the law.

Seven friends – Abigail, Ben, Carley, Devin, Ethan, Frank, and Gunter – are seated in three rows of an airplane, as pictured.

With the following clues, which friend is seated in which airplane seat? (Note that two seats are unoccupied)

  • Abigail is seated beside Ben and also beside an unoccupied seat.
  • Carley is seated immediately behind Devin and immediately beside Ethan.
    Frank is seated between two other passengers.
  • Gunter is seated immediately behind an unoccupied seat. Gunter’s seat is not a window seat.

Solution: 1. Ben 2. Abigail 3. Unoccupied 4. Devin 5. Frank 6. Gunter 7. Carley 8. Ethan 9. Unoccupied

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

Kiana Ghorbanzadeh
De Anza College
UC Berkeley

Q1. How did you find out about CLEO?
I heard about CLEO through a former classmate at De Anza College.

Q2. When did you realize you wanted to attend law school?
When I was in high school, I took a class in criminology taught by a lawyer, at my local college and really enjoyed the class. From there I became interested in philosophy courses and knew that I wanted to major in Philosophy, but there weren’t any majors that incorporated philosophy and the law. And I think that’s what law school does, teaches you the law and makes you think in creative ways about it. So, I knew that I wanted to attend law school after receiving my bachelor’s.

Q3. What did you learn during the CLEO program/ you attended?
I attended the CLEO Achieving Success in the Application Process (ASAP) in 2017, where I met with various admission officers and learned what they look for in each applicant. It was immensely helpful as I got to learn everyone’s background and what admission officers find most vital about each application. Additionally, it helped me a lot in understanding the process of applying to law school and what to expect during and after law school.

Q4. How has the CLEO programs influenced your preparation for law school?
I would say that [ASAP] really helped in the process of applying to law schools. Considering that there’s so much information about how to apply to law school and when to apply, I think CLEO did a great job at giving me the confidence to apply whenever I felt comfortable with my application (and obviously before the deadline). There wasn’t a lot of pressure on applying early, rather more attention was directed towards producing a great personal statement and diversity statement (if applicable). And I really appreciate this about CLEO because I always felt that I was applying late or everyone was ahead of me, but I learned that if my application is completed and submitted on my own timeline, then no one can really be ahead of me.

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?
ASAP – The most beneficial part of the program was getting to speak with admission officers and understand their perspectives on the different aspects of law school applications. Especially being able to have my essays and diversity statements reviewed and getting feedback was really important.

Q6. Do you plan to attend any future CLEO events?
Absolutely! CLEO has empowered me as an aspiring lawyer and I’m grateful for them!

Q7. Do you have any advice for other aspiring lawyers?
Don’t get stressed out about the application process and just know that everyone is on their own path. Comparing yourself to others in the application process or when taking the LSAT is futile. Focus on yourself and just keep going. There were so many days that I just wanted to give up and go with another career path, but I had to remind myself who and why I’m doing this. Don’t give up because it will be rewarding in the end!

Q8. Do you have any additional comments about CLEO?
I’m just really grateful for being able to discover CLEO and attend their program. I hope that as a future attorney, I can give back to CLEO and be able to inspire other aspiring attorneys as they have done for me.

Meet a dynamic young Scholar & listen to his secrets of success!

Khyrie Weatherspoon - Graduating Senior

Naaman Forest High School, Garland TX
Project Still I Rise Mentoring Program, Dallas TX
Mentor: Sienzhi Kouemo

Marisa C. Blancarte - CLEO’s 1L Prep – Attitude Is Essential

CLEO Alumna, Marisa C. Blancarte, participated in CLEO’s 1L Prep – Attitude Is Essential in 2010. After finishing the two-day seminar, she attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa | William S. Richardson School of Law.

After graduating from law school in 2013, Marisa has established a successful career in the commercial contracting space. Since 2014, she has worked in the state of California, currently serving as a Senior Contract Administrator, with a specialization in IT, for the Southern California Association of Governments.

In this one-minute video, Marisa touches on the positive, lasting impact CLEO made on her in preparing her to succeed academically and professionally and why she thinks it’s a great program for others considering going to law school.

So you want to go to law school?

by RJ Holmes-Leopold
Director of the career center an
pre-law advisor at Carleton College
in Northfield, Minnesota

Should I go to law school? It depends. When should I take the LSAT? It depends. Who should I get to write me a letter of recommendation? It depends. What should I write about in my personal statement? It depends. Should I take one or two transition years after college before going to law school? It depends.

The pre-law students I work with have realized that my answer to most of the questions they ask about going to law school will result in the same answer more times than not–it depends. The reality is, there is no one “right” way to determine if you should go to law school or which law school to attend and whether you should become a practicing attorney or pursue something else completely different. The answers to the questions pre-law students ask of me as a pre-law advisor are often contextually bound to each individual’s unique lived experience and life circumstances. How one student determines which law school to attend, at what financial price point, and in what area of the country to be in for three years are based on several factors that will likely look quite different from another applicant.

Ultimately, going to law school is a significant investment of time, effort, and finances. Each applicant should engage in a process of self-discernment to make the best decision for them. While the global pandemic has shifted the ways students interact with pre-law advisors and how they navigate the logistics of the law school admission process, it’s still important to take a step back and really consider how the law fits with their life goals.

As a pre-law student, here are some questions to consider as you determine your path (or not) to law school and the legal profession:

  1. What are the skills I am most excited about using in a potential work setting?
  2. What experiences have influenced my worldview and the issues I care most about?
  3. In what kinds of situations do I like to work with people (presuming that you do)?
  4. Do I enjoy reading a lot and writing a lot?
  5. What am I willing to not do in order to pursue a specific pathway in life?

These questions may not look like they are related to legal education, but being honest with yourself can help determine if a law degree and the practices associated with legal professions are a good option for you. During the pandemic we saw a major increase in law school applications and while those numbers have now tempered a bit, it’s still unclear yet how much the market can support all of the new law graduates in the public and the private sector post-pandemic.

At the end of the day, choosing to go to law school is still a very individualized decision dependent on variables that matter most to who you are, what kind of impact you want to have in the world, and what you wish your life to look like throughout your lifetime. 

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

Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Mitchell Hamline School of Law is committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in all dimensions

Their staff and faculty embrace these values in their daily work with training in an Equity Institute and their DEI steering committee. CLEO is proud to have Mitchell Hamline host the 2023 Pre-Law Summer Institute (PLSI), promoting the growth of underrepresented law students. Mitchell Hamline is using their efforts to become an anti-racist school and values the perspectives of all. Their commitment to DEI is clear as they focus on justice and equity as an institution.


Visit Mitchell Hamline School of 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
Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Penn State Dickinson Law
Quinnipiac University School of Law
UConn School of Law
University of Colorado Law School
University of Idaho College of Law
The University of Mississippi School of Law
University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce 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
Benjamin L. Crump College of Law (formerly St. Thomas University College of Law)
Golden Gate University School of Law
New York Law School
St. John’s University School of Law
South Texas College of Law Houston
University of Buffalo School of Law
University of North Carolina School of Law

American University Washington College of Law
Baylor Law School
Boston University School of Law
Florida International University College of Law
University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law
Mercer University School of Law
Michigan State University College of Law
New York University School of Law
Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
Oklahoma City University School of Law
University of Richmond School of Law
Southern Illinois University School of Law
Texas A&M University School of Law
The University of Chicago Law School
The University of Kansas College of Law
The University of Texas School of Law
The University of Tulsa College of Law
Thurgood Marshall School of Law
University of Denver Sturm College of Law
University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School
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

Manika G. Heilig, BS

Regional Director, CLICKS Mentoring Program







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