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Law Student Wins $40,000 Diversity Scholarship

The Morgan Lewis Foundation announced May 6 that Boston College Law student Ismail Ercan ’22 is a Diversity Scholarship award winner for 2020. The scholarship, intended to promote diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, is awarded to promising law students from underrepresented groups.

Ercan is among seven law students from schools such as the University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia, and University of Michigan, and University of California Berkeley who will receive grants—typically $40,000 per student—that are provided in four installments at the beginning of each semester of their second and third years of law school.

“The commitment to diversity and inclusion is a core value at Morgan Lewis, influencing how the firm serves clients, collaborates with colleagues, recruits, and engages with local communities,” said Firm Chair Jami McKeon. “That commitment includes a focus on ensuring that outstanding diverse law students have the ability to succeed and thrive in our profession. These recipients are, to a person, remarkable, and we are proud to help them pursue their personal and professional development.”

Ercan, born to Turkish and Peruvian parents in South Florida, expressed his gratitude for the award. “I came to Boston College Law School because of the various hurdles my family faced becoming citizens, as well as their struggles navigating various civil suits throughout my childhood. With no knowledge of our legal system and with English as a second language, I saw how much a family lawyer could have helped us in these situations,” he said.

“Growing up in the melting pot that is South Florida, I know I am not the only one who has had these experiences. So, to me, this scholarship from Morgan Lewis signifies a commitment from a global law firm to ensure more people like me not only diversify a firm’s workplace, but also can inspire others from our background to pursue this career as a viable path and better our own communities in the process,” Ercan added. “I am very grateful for this opportunity given to me and hope to inspire others in the future.”

The Morgan Lewis foundation’s mission focuses on promoting diversity and inclusion within the profession, where future employment with Morgan Lewis is not a requirement for scholarship recipients. The mission resonates now more than ever as the world navigates the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, when it is vital to economically support others in pursuing their goals.

“We believe that it is especially important to invest in the next generation of diverse leaders, particularly during a time like this,” said Amanda Smith, chief engagement officer and chair of the Morgan Lewis Foundation. “We are honored to have the chance to support these scholars, no matter where they decide to practice.”

Ercan majored in political science, Spanish, and music (violin performance) at Vanderbilt University, which he attended on  a full-tuition scholarship for a minority student with an interest in journalism. He wrote for the campus newspaper and political review, and interned for the Miami Herald twice during those years.

He also worked for Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson, a strong proponent of LGBTQ rights whose district at the time was heavily affected by the PULSE nightclub shootings, and spent a summer on the campaign trail for current Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. In high school, Ercan taught violin to underprivileged children.

Ercan is the sixth BC Law student to receive the Morgan Lewis Foundation award in as many years. Previous recipients are Thanithia Billings in 2015, Saba Habte in 2016, Marcus Nemeth in 2017, Helen Kim in 2018, and Risa Kuroda in 2019.

The independent nonprofit foundation was established in 2014 using a fee award granted to the global law firm Morgan Lewis in a historic settlement of a pro bono matter on behalf of African American families working to combat nearly a century of government-sponsored racial segregation in public housing in Baltimore.

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