Harvard Law School has partnered with NYU School of Law and the Advantage Testing Foundation to launch the Training and Recruitment Initiative for Admission to Leading Law Schools (TRIALS), a five-week summer residential program aimed at helping underrepresented students of modest means get into the nation’s top law schools.

The program was initiated because law schools continue to lag behind professional schools in other fields in attracting successful applicants from economically disadvantaged sectors of society, despite efforts of admissions departments to encourage such applications. TRIALS aims to offset some of the factors that are especially challenging to disadvantaged students and to help prospective applicants become more competitive.

The five-week curriculum offers rigorous LSAT preparation from Advantage Testing Foundation instructors, lecturers by prominent legal scholars, and opportunities for students to meet with practicing lawyers. Additionally, TRIALS allows students to experience communities similar to those they will encounter in law school.

To recruit applicants for the program, Advantage Testing sent a letter and poster mailing to presidents and pre-law or career advancement advisors of four-year degree-granting universities around the country. There have been more than 5,000 applications so far. Twenty students will be selected for this summer’s program.

“While recognizing that diversity in the classroom contributes to educational excellence, TRIALS is an attempt to increase the diversity pipeline into leading law schools,” said Phil Lee, Assistant Director of Admissions at HLS.

The program is fully subsidized by the three partner institutions, with the help of a grant from the Hecksher Foundation. The summer class of 20 students will receive, at no charge: full tuition; transportation to and from the host university campus; housing and meals; access to the host university’s libraries, computer centers and gym; and a $3,000 stipend to replace summer employment income. It will be hosted by Harvard or NYU in alternating years.

HLS will host the inaugural year of TRIALS this summer, with NYU hosting in 2010.

For more information about the TRIALS program, please visit the TRIALS website at http://trials.atfoundation.org

-Jenny Lackey