News Release

PLEDGE Fellowship Program Begins for Law School Leaders, Faculty in Partnership with AccessLex Institute

September 23, 2022

CONTACT: Alan Richard, cell 202-641-1300,

ATLANTA — The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) has launched its inaugural 18-month  professional development program and intervention-based research project, the Professionals in Legal Education Developing Greater Equity (PLEDGE), in partnership with AccessLex Institute — two organizations committed to fostering access, diversity, and equity in education.

The fellowship is for experienced law school administrators, faculty members, or other similarly situated and experienced professionals. The first six fellows began the program in June and will continue through November 2023. Two students each are from the American University, Seattle University, and Florida A&M University.

“The legal profession is one of the least diverse professions in the United States, and the demographics are a direct reflection of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in legal education access and bar exam outcomes,” said Raymond Pierce, President & CEO of the Southern Education Foundation. “The Fellows have tremendous work ahead of them. At the end of the 18-month fellowship, they will have attained knowledge surrounding those statistical trends, as well as concepts and issues relevant to the fostering of diversity, equity, and inclusion in legal organizations all across this country.”

The PLEDGE curriculum is built in six stages of three months each, and each builds on the previous stage. Fellows have opportunities to meet in person to set project agendas and gather virtually between those meetings.

“We are delighted PLEDGE is underway and excited by the work the Fellows will do, testing the efficacy of their programs and initiatives while contributing to the collective knowledge on fostering inclusive student success,” said Aaron Taylor, Executive Director of the AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence.

Teams of two Fellows from each law school are undertaking intervention-based research projects called Capstones, focusing on one of the following topics in legal education:

  • Admission and access
  • Academic performance
  • Bar exam performance

Fellowship teams receive funding and support, including:

  • Up to $25,000 per Fellow for research activities
  • A $5,000 stipend per Fellow
  • Access to Capstone design expertise
  • Access to professional development coaching in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices

The goals of the fellowship program include:

  • Cultivating evidence-based experimentation and assessment in legal education
  • Contributing to the development of best practices for fostering access and success among aspiring lawyers from underrepresented backgrounds
  • Increasing law school enrollment and academic success among people from underrepresented racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds
  • Introducing Fellows to principles and concepts underlying DEI, statistical methods, experimental design, and evidence-based decision making
  • Building partnerships with and among legal education stakeholders, particularly law schools that enroll disproportionate numbers of underrepresented students and those that seek to increase the enrollment of these students.

For more information about the fellowship, e-mail us at

About the Southern Education Foundation

Originally founded in 1867 to educate Black children and children from low-income families in the South, the Southern Education Foundation has a long history of developing leaders in education, and was a pivotal source of research and data to support legislation and litigation aimed at fighting inequity in education during the civil rights era. The organization today conducts leadership development, research, and advocacy to improve educational opportunities for low-income students and students of color and achieve educational equity in the Southern U.S. It is based in Atlanta, Georgia. More is available at

About AccessLex Institute

Since 1983, AccessLex Institute has continually evolved to meet the ever-changing challenges and needs of the law students and institutions that we serve. We are steadfast in our commitment to inform students of the economic realities of law school without limiting their aspirations. We conduct and commission research to illuminate the latest data and evidence on the most critical issues facing legal education today. And we are resolute in our appeal to policymakers and influencers to take actions that make legal education work better for both students and society at large. As a nonprofit organization underpinned by nearly 200 American Bar Association-approved nonprofit and state-affiliated law schools, we are intently dedicated to the betterment of legal education. AccessLex Institute is headquartered in West Chester, PA. We currently have $800 million in total net assets. Learn more at