Having taught at a low-performing school in urban Los Angeles, Meghan Corman ’08 knows all about the hardship of institutional obstacles. Thanks to the California Bar Foundation, she now has one fewer to scale herself.
Corman and Angela Hollowell-Fuentes ’08 were among 17 California law students to receive $1,000 from the Foundation’s Rosenthal Bar Exam Scholarship program to help with the costs of taking the state Bar. As one of the top five recipients, Corman also received a free California BAR/BRI Bar Exam review course valued at more than $3,000. Recipients were honored for showing a commitment to public service, academic excellence, and financial need.
“Most law firms pay for bar exam classes for their incoming associates,” says Corman, also named a Reed Smith Scholar by one of the two sponsoring firms. “But for people not working at a firm, the summer after graduating can be really stressful. You have to pay for your own prep course, and the time you need to attend it and study for the Bar makes it hard to work and earn money to finance it. I’m very grateful to have that burden lifted.”
The California Bar Foundation has given cash awards and free bar review courses to graduates of California schools since 1997. A recent survey revealed that more than two-thirds of its tracked scholarship alumni continue to practice public interest law.
“The Foundation is committed to supporting the next generation of public interest lawyers as they take this final step in becoming members of the California Bar,” said Foundation president Scott Wylie. “These students…are amazing and inspiring.”
Taking Aim at Public Education
After graduating summa cum laude from the University of New Hampshire, Corman spent one year with Americorps working for the San Diego Unified School District and then three years in Los Angeles teaching third grade with Teach for America. She became frustrated with the number of roadblocks impeding her students’ success, and felt she could serve public education better doing advocacy as a lawyer.
Corman has interned at the California Attorney General’s Office of Health, Education, and Welfare to gain a public sector perspective, at Public Advocates to perform education advocacy, at Legal Services for Children to provide direct services, and at the National Center for Youth Law to work on foster children issues.
“I’d never thought about going to law school,” she says. “But each day I became increasingly frustrated at how many deeply-rooted problems I saw in public education. I just wanted to help make a broader impact. Teaching in Los Angeles, I became invested in California’s flawed public education system, and I want to do what I can to improve it.”
With Americorps, Corman led classes for San Diego parents—many of whom did not speak English—on how to help their children in school. Americorps’ guiding philosophy, which Corman describes as “whatever you do in your one-year program should be sustainable after you leave,” stuck with her.
She followed that credo at Berkeley Law, devoting countless hours toward strengthening the future of the Expulsion Clinic—a division of Advocates for Youth Justice that represents high school students at expulsion hearings. Corman trained several students who will serve as mentors during the upcoming school year, and shored up problem areas of the group’s infrastructure.
“It felt like that kind of advocacy would continue to benefit people after I left the clinic,” says Corman, who also taught civil rights law in juvenile hall. “These were students about to get kicked out of school for doing something wrong, but often the school also didn’t truly try to help or offer better solutions. Working with these students and their families reinforced my belief that you shouldn’t do anything for the client, you should do it with them.”
– By Andrew Cohen