Insight Center: News

Pepper Hamilton Recognized for Villanova Diversity Pipeline Initiative


Pepper Hamilton was recently presented with the George B. Vashon Innovator Award by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA), in recognition of the firm’s pioneering partnership with the Villanova University School of Law.

“Pepper’s initiative with Villanova has only been in place since 2006, but has already reaped significant benefits for the firm, for the law school, and most importantly for the students,” said Kassem L. Lucas, Commercial Litigation partner and the firm’s Partner in Charge of Diversity. “This award is great recognition for the firm, and I hope it leads other firms to take similar action. We’ve proven that this type of program works.

Pepper’s initiative with Villanova is multifaceted, and includes:

  • The Pepper Hamilton LLP Scholarships – Each year continuing in perpetuity, Villanova Law School awards two three-year full tuition scholarships in Pepper’s name. The primary scholarship recipients are racial or ethnic minorities, and the scholarships are awarded based on merit and financial need.
  • The Pepper Hamilton LLP Pathways Program – Pepper hires two Villanova School of Law minority students as first-year summer associates with an option for these students to serve as part-time law clerks during the academic year.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture Sponsored by Pepper Hamilton LLP – Villanova’s annual major public lecture during the week-long commemoration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is named in honor of Pepper in perpetuity. The lecture provides an opportunity for Pepper to work directly with Villanova’s minority student organizations in identifying speakers.
  • The Pepper Hamilton National Summer Program for Minority Students – In 2007-08, Villanova’s six-week credit-bearing summer program for sophomores and juniors from historically black colleges and universities was named in honor of Pepper. The summer program introduced the students to the possibilities of law school, legal careers, and provided an introduction to legal reasoning and writing. Pepper lawyers served as guest speakers and mentors, and Pepper sponsored an annual reception for students.

The Pepper/Villanova initiative has reaped some real benefits: 11 students have received full scholarships; 14 students have been hired as summer associates/law clerks; and six MLK lectures have been held.

“The Pathways Program provided me with an opportunity to ‘summer’ and work full-time at a large law firm,” according to former Pathways intern and current associate Nefertiri R. Smarr. “As a fourth-year associate, I appreciate the early exposure to private practice and I have witnessed the continued success of the program for other minority students after me. We have been given the opportunity to identify practice areas of interest, develop and enhanced legal skills and network with accomplished attorneys. I could not even imagine that this would have been possible before the Pathways Program.”

The award was presented at the MCCA Pathways to Diversity Conference on September 16 at the New York Marriott Marquis. The award also was mentioned the following evening at the MCCA’s Diversity Honors Gala at Lincoln Center.

Photos available by request.