MARSHALL-MOTLEY SCHOLARS PROGRAM

Program Overview

Since 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) has been committed to racial justice and equity. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF is building on this legacy with the Marshall-Motley Scholars Program.

Named in honor of civil rights legends Thurgood Marshall — LDF’s founder and the nation’s first Black Supreme Court Justice — and Constance Baker Motley, former LDF attorney and the first Black woman to become a federal judge, the MMSP will create pathways to leadership, self-sufficiency, and socio-economic progress, while developing individuals to become ambassadors and advocates for transformational change in Black communities in the South.

This program comes at a time when Black students are facing more barriers than ever to attend law school. Studies show that the cost of a private law school education has grown by a whopping 175% since 1985. According to the American Bar Association, student loans take a disproportionate toll on lawyers of color, often forcing them to take unwanted career paths. The support offered by the MMSP is an intentional effort to address the racial and economic barriers that often deter students from pursuing their dreams of becoming civil rights attorneys, and a targeted effort to support the civil rights ecosystem in the South.

Over the next five years, the MMSP will afford 50 aspiring civil rights lawyers:

  • A full law school scholarship for tuition, room, board, and incidentals to alleviate the debt burden that can prevent future lawyers from pursuing a career in racial justice;
  • Summer internships at LDF and other national civil rights organizations with offices in the South to begin their training as civil rights lawyers early in their law school careers;
  • A two-year postgraduate fellowship at a national, regional, or local civil rights organization with a racial justice law practice in the South; and
  • Access to special trainings sponsored by the LDF and the National Academy of Sciences.

In return, the Scholars will commit to serving as civil rights lawyers based in the South, engaged in a law practice focused on achieving racial justice for 8 years following the conclusion of their fellowship. The MMSP will continue to offer support for the newly emerging civil rights lawyers as they develop their practice and form a distinguished regional network of legal practitioners.

MARSHALL-MOTLEY SCHOLARS PROGRAM

Why is the MMSP critical today?

This moment of racial reckoning in the wake of escalating police violence against Black communities, the resurgence of overt acts of “white supremacy,” and the awakening of millions of Americans to the difficult truth of persistent racial and social inequality that has long permeated our country and its institutions, underscore the importance and urgency of the MMSP’s critical intervention. Systemic racism is deeply embedded in every aspect of our society and profoundly affects the daily lives of Americans, with widespread and tragic consequences for Black people and other marginalized groups. The South, where a majority of Black Americans live and where racial inequality remains deeply entrenched, is uniquely in need of additional civil rights attorneys who can work alongside community leaders and activists to bring about transformational change.

The civil rights challenges of this moment in our nation calls for a full complement of highly-trained and dedicated civil rights lawyers prepared to meet the challenges we confront and serve our communities with excellence. LDF is committed to identifying and investing in brilliant minds who are dedicated to pursuing racial justice in the South, and for whom this work is a personal and professional calling. Consistent with our history, the MMSP is LDF’s bold and intentional investment in populating, developing, and enriching the field of civil rights lawyers committed to racial justice.

LDF has supported and helped develop some of this nation’s most legendary civil rights lawyers and leaders. LDF lawyers and cooperating attorneys are among the nation’s most well-respected legislators, judges, scholars, and political leaders. We expect that the MMSP Scholars will themselves become exceptional litigators and advocates and follow in these legendary footsteps.

And you – yes, you – can be part of this exciting and extraordinary initiative to serve, strengthen, and transform Black communities in the South.

MARSHALL-MOTLEY SCHOLARS PROGRAM

Frequently Asked Questions

  • February 11, 2022
  • Your application must be submitted no later than 11:59 PM in the time where you are located on February 11, 2022.

No. There is no application fee.

The timeline for the 2022 selection process is as follows: 

  • November 1, 2021 – Application Opens
  • February 11, 2022 – Application Deadline (11:59 PM)
  • March 2022 – Phase 1 Review
    Finalists Selected
    Phase 2 Finalist Interviews
  • April – Scholars Selected

Our holistic selection process involves MMSP staff, as well as current and former LDF attorneys, renowned civil attorneys and leaders in the legal profession.

No, there is no minimum LSAT score or GPA to apply. However, applicants must be admitted to an ABA-approved law school in the U.S. prior to participate in the Program.

April 2022

  • Program staff will notify awardees via phone and/or email.

Yes. All applicants will be notified when a final decision is made regarding their application.

The MMSP will afford Program participants: 

  • a full scholarship for law school tuition, room, board and incidentals
  • summer internships at LDF and at peer organizations
  • a two-year postgraduate fellowship at a national, regional, or local civil rights organization with a racial justice law practice in the South 
  • access to special trainings sponsored by the LDF.
  • Please note that all aspects of the program are mandatory for all participants.

The number of participants may vary from year to year, but we anticipate selecting up to 10 participants each year over the course of five years to produce a total of 50 civil rights practitioners in the South. 

For purposes of the MMSP, “the South” or “southern United States” is defined as follows: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

MMSP participants will commit a total of 13 years to the program. This includes:

  • 3 years as a full-time law student
  • 2 years in a post-law school fellowship
  • 8 years practicing civil rights law in the pursuit of racial justice in the southern United States

No. You may attend any ABA-approved law school in the U.S. Applicants who will attend an unaccredited law school or who will attend law school outside of the United States are not eligible.

Yes. Every participant will be required to participate in a summer internship at LDF or other civil rights law organizations and in a 2-year fellowship at a national, regional, or local civil rights organization with a racial justice law practice in the South.

MMSP is much more than a scholarship. It is a program designed to support, develop and train a cohort of civil rights lawyers who will serve Black communities in the South. While the program does include a three-year full-tuition scholarship, the bulk of the participation in the program centers on a post-graduate fellowship in civil rights law practice and 8 years of practicing civil rights law in the pursuit of racial justice in the southern United States.

The Marshall-Motley Scholar is:

  • Purposeful & Committed: We want to understand why you care deeply about racial justice and why you are committed to pursuing the practice of civil rights law. 
  • Resilient: We want to understand how you foresee challenges, respond to them, and bounce back from them. 
  • Prepared to Lead: We want to understand how you are uniquely equipped to take on such a substantial leadership role in the world.  
  • Connected:  We want aspiring lawyers who have a demonstrated commitment to working on issues of racial justice and equality and who have an interest in working in the South.

No. We welcome applicants from all over the country to apply for the Program. We do, however, have a particular interest in students with strong connections – familial, work, or otherwise, to the South. In all cases, participants must commit to practice civil rights law in pursuit of racial justice in the South for eight years following the conclusion of their fellowship.

No. Participants must commit to practice civil rights law in pursuit of racial justice in the South for eight years following the conclusion of their fellowship. Please consider our other LDF scholarships.

No. Participants must commit to practice civil rights law in pursuit of racial justice in the South for eight years following the conclusion of their fellowship. Please consider our other LDF scholarships.

Yes. Participants who are selected for the MMSP can defer their participation in the post-graduate fellowship portion of the program for up to 2 years while they complete a judicial clerkship.  The judicial clerkship does not need to be in the South.

Only U.S. citizens or students with permanent resident status and who are admitted to an ABA-approved law school as a first-year law student for the fall 2021 academic year, are eligible for the program.

Yes. However, if you receive another tuition and/or room and board scholarship, those portions of your MMSP award will be reduced by the amount of scholarship(s) received from other sources. In most cases, this reduction only applies to the tuition portion of the scholarship.  All other non-monetary program benefits will be available to you.

Yes. All participants must meet the requirements for admission to an ABA-approved law school as a first-year law student.

Yes, you are eligible to participate so long as you are admitted to an ABA-approved law school as a first-year student for the fall 2021 academic year.

No, applicants must intend to enroll at an ABA-approved law school as a first-year law student for the upcoming fall academic year.

No application is complete without LSAT/GRE Score Report at the time of submission.

At this time, the program does not accommodate students in joint degree programs.

  • The program is designed to support the development of aspiring lawyers who are enrolled in a traditional, 3-year full time JD program.  

However, please visit LDF Scholarships to learn about other opportunities. 

  • At this time, the program is designed to support the development of aspiring lawyers who are admitted, or expect to be admitted, to an ABA-accredited law school as a first-year, full-time law student to begin in the fall. Additionally, law students who have completed one or more semesters of law school or who intend to defer enrollment are not eligible.  

Please visit Fellowships & Internships to learn more about other LDF opportunities for which you may be eligible. 

The practice of civil rights law in pursuit of racial justice in the South is defined as follows:

  • law practice at a national, regional, or local civil rights organization with a racial justice law practice in the South (e.g., Advancement Project, ACLU’s Racial Justice Project, Equal Justice Initiative, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Southern Coalition for Social Justice);
  • law practice at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division;
  • law practice in the Civil Rights Division of a State Attorney’s General Office where the focus is on issues of racial justice on behalf of African Americans,
  • law practice as a qualifying private law entity, including solo or independent practice in which 75% or more of the caseload involves racial justice advocacy on behalf of African Americans; or
  • other law practice in pursuit of racial justice that the LDF and similar civil rights organizations have pioneered and developed.

  • During the fellowship portion of MMSP, participants may not select the state they will complete their fellowship. Following graduation from an ABA-accredited law school, participants will serve for two years at national, regional, or local civil rights organizations with a racial justice law practice in the South. LDF will work with partners to help place participants in these fellowships and will provide guidelines for the participant partner organizations to ensure that the training and exposure the participant receives provides adequate training for a future career in civil rights law.
  • During the 8-year post fellowship commitment, participants may select the state in the South in which to practice. For purposes of the MMSP, “the South” or “southern United States” is defined as follows: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. 

No. In general, the program does not support those who intend to pursue a career as a public defender, prosecutor, or government lawyer.

  • With the exception of law practice at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division or law practice in the Civil Rights Division of a State Attorney’s General Office where the focus is on issues of racial justice on behalf of African Americans.
  • The MMSP is designed specifically to develop the private civil rights bar and create a robust network of practicing attorneys delivering legal services to Black communities in cities throughout the South. We are seeking candidates who are committed to pursuing racial justice via a career in civil rights law as a discrete practice area. 

No. The program is designed to support the development of aspiring lawyers who are enrolled in a traditional, 3-year full-time JD program.

No. There is no age restriction for this program.  

  • The aim of the MMSP is to seed the South with a cohort of well-trained and highly dedicated civil rights attorneys to provide superior legal representation to African American communities.