La’Tika Howard was one of eight students selected three years ago for a full scholarship at the University of Baltimore School of Law. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

La’Tika Howard decided at age 6 — shortly after her father was murdered — that she would grow up to become a lawyer. But as her college graduation neared, she still hadn’t figured out how to get into law school or pay for it.

A flyer posted in the student center of her historically black university revealed a solution: a program at the University of Baltimore’s law school that recruits African-American undergraduates. It’s an attempt to add to the disproportionately small number of black lawyers in the U.S.

The number — as low as 2.3 percent of law partners in Baltimore and 7.5 percent of associates — affects the way black Americans interact with the justice system, corporations shape their products and young people envision their future.

Howard, a first-generation college student from Prince George’s County, was one of eight students selected three years ago for a full scholarship and other perks of the program — introductions to judges and high-powered attorneys, coaching by mentors, leads on internships and law clerk positions, and intense preparation for the Law School Admission Test, a key factor in being accepted to study law.

As an undergraduate, “I didn’t have much opportunity to be around attorneys,” said Howard, 23, now a second-year law student. “I wasn’t networking. I didn’t know about the LSAT or know you needed to take one.”

The UB program, in its sixth year, is believed to be the only one of its kind in the country.

Recognized by the American Bar Association for promoting equal opportunity, the program is unique for the wrap-around services it provides and its collaboration with Maryland’s four historically black colleges and universities, including Howard’s alma mater, the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. The program was named for the late Fannie Angelos, a 1951 University of Baltimore School of Law graduate, after a $1 million endowment by her brother, Peter Angelos, majority owner of the Orioles.

Since 2011, about 90 students from the program have been accepted to law schools, including the Columbia Law School, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. About 25 students from the program are enrolled at the University of Baltimore’s law school.

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Source: Baltimore Sun / Yvonne Wenger