Expanding beyond its successful scholarship program for outstanding women law students, in 2013 the Women Lawyers Association Foundation (WLAMF) will donate a portion of its fundraising proceeds to the Just the Beginning Foundation (JTBF). The WLAMF Board unanimously agreed that the missions of the groups complement each other, focusing on education, and that WLAMF awards should reach younger students.
"Just the Beginning" began as a celebration of the Integration of the Federal Judiciary on September 19, 1992, in Chicago, IL. The celebratory event entitled, "Just The Beginning - A Celebration of Integration of the Federal Judiciary" honored Judge James Parsons, the first African-American United States District Court Judge, on his retirement after devoting thirty-one years on the federal bench. Inspired by the events of that weekend, JTBF ® was founded as a not-for-profit organization of judges, lawyers, and other citizens dedicated to developing educational programs to inspire and foster careers in the law among students of color and from other underrepresented groups, from middle school through law school.
Today, JTBF continues this mission by offering pipeline programs directly aimed at inspiring young students and increasing diversity in the legal profession and judiciary. These programs include the Middle School and High School Summer Legal Institutes, an Advanced Summer Legal Institute, law student externships, law student scholarships, programming in schools that target under-served and minority high school and college students, and biennial conferences that bring together diverse legal leaders of local communities.
In Michigan, at the 2012 Summer Legal Institute, Detroit-area high school students met with volunteer attorneys and members of the judiciary, visited the courts, participated in a mock trial, practiced negotiations skills, attended workshops on college readiness and business networking, and presented oral arguments for competition. The JTBF program is supported by the Hon. Victoria A. Roberts, Cooley Law School Associate Dean John Nussbaumer, and many prominent lawyers and law firms.