Joseph Porter IV, a second-year student at the Gould School of Law, won a 2L Diversity Scholarship from the global law firm, Latham & Watkins, on Thursday.
The firm reviewed nearly 300 applications coming from 90 U.S. law schools. A Yale undergraduate and currently member of the Gould School class of 2017, Porter was one of 10 law students chosen to receive this award.
The 2L Diversity Scholarship is one of the firm’s signature initiatives. It includes a $10,000 stipend and a position as a summer associate at Latham & Watkins. This program was implemented in 2005, and since then, it has awarded over $500,000 in scholarships to law students throughout the U.S. The application had students detail their academic and leadership achievements, their previous work and personal experiences, and their commitment to diversity. Other scholarship winners include students from Columbia University, Northwestern University, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Maryland and the University of Virginia.
Manu Gayatrinath, a partner of the firm and the chair of the recruiting committee, said the program aims to provide diverse law students a way to pursue their careers and increase the diversity in the profession.
“It’s really just supposed to be a way for Latham to be at the forefront of ensuring that we’re increasing diversity in the legal profession overall, not just the firm,” she said.
According to Gayatrinath, the law profession tends to be lagging in terms of diversity.
“We really strongly believe that one of the major ways that we can really broaden this community and to have a better voice in this community is by ensuring that we have various viewpoints reflected in all of our teams,” she said. “Over and over again it’s been proven that diversity really leads to better problem solving.”
During the competitive application process, the firm looks for students who have had different experiences from other students at major universities and who show the firm’s values of excellence and character in their personal and work experiences.
“The 10 students we selected represent the very brightest future of our profession,” Bill Voge, chair of Latham & Watkins, wrote on the firm’s website. “Each one possesses a tremendous amount of talent, tenacity, ambition and dedication to the law.”
Porter was initially offered an intern position at Latham & Watkins after he applied in August. Impressed by his application, the firm sent him an email suggesting that he apply for the scholarship, and the very next day he was contacted saying he had won. Porter thought it was a mixture of his previous work experience and his passion for advocating for diversity that got him the scholarship.
“They saw that I was well-rounded and a good person to have working [at their firm], not [that I was] only diverse,” he said.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from Yale University in 2011, Porter worked for three years as a business analyst at Deloitte in New York City. Soon after, he decided it was time to come back home to Southern California. A second- generation Trojan, Porter said the USC emphasis on diversity played a big role in his decision of coming here.
“I don’t think I can speak directly at the undergrad level … but law school generally is not very good at getting diverse candidates, and I think USC is doing a good job in focusing in diversity and making it important to them,” Porter said.
Porter also believes that the law industry tends to be mostly white and uniform. As part of both the Black Law Students Association and the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association, he is looking to inspire others to make the legal workspace more diverse. He believes law firms can benefit from diversifying, like Latham & Watkins is doing through its scholarship program.
“I’m working in making initiatives that will help more black law school students come to the law firm,” he said. “Having more diverse people helps provide different perspectives because legal work can be really collaborative, and you can understand different points [of view]. All around, having a more diverse community will better the legal work space that you can provide.”
Porter will be interning at Latham & Watkins for 10 weeks during the summer of 2016 and hopes to get a full-time position when he graduates from USC in May 2017.