The Wolverine Bar Association was established by African American attorneys who practice throughout the state of Michigan. The Wolverine Bar Foundation serves as the charitable arm of the Wolverine Bar Association. The foundation supports and creates programs that raise money to provide law students scholarship opportunities, pipeline programming that educates and host programs that educate and instruct students on the fundamental skills needed for a legal career, supports various charitable and educational activities, and sponsors community outreach programs. On April 8, The Wolverine Bar Association and The Wolverine Bar Foundation is hosting its 56th annual Barrister’s Ball: Mardi Gras in Motown at the Detroit Marriot inside the Renaissance Center. On this night, five chosen students will receive scholarships and awards will be given for those impacting the community.
Rolling out was able to speak with the WBA president, Jehan Crump-Gibson, to get more information on the Wolverine Bar Association and the programs they offer.
As the president, what are your duties for the Wolverine Bar Association?
As president of the Wolverine Bar Association and Wolverine Bar Foundation, I am responsible for the implementation of programs administered through our various committees, including scholarship, pipeline, mentorship, community outreach, social justice, membership, minority bar passage, summer clerkship, judicial externship, pro bono, judicial qualifications and many more. I am also charged with chairing the meetings of the board of directors, coordinating with other bar associations, community stakeholders and other groups on various efforts and ensuring the WBA is well-represented throughout the legal community and community at large.
What are the benefits of being a member of the WBA?
Our members are offered unique opportunities for networking, legal education, financial literacy, practice growth and most importantly, giving back. The Wolverine Bar has played a pivotal role in the community for over 80 years. While we have progressed in many ways, many of the social ills we were faced with years ago still plague us today. Our members are uniquely positioned to combat these issues through outreach, leadership opportunities, community education and ensuring that we have adequate representation in the legal profession.
How does the WBA positively affect the community?
Our community outreach and pro bono committees are very active. We regularly organize volunteer efforts that involve community clean-ups, youth empowerment activities, co-sponsoring expungement fairs and providing resources to those in need of legal assistance. We sponsor “Lunch and Learns” at area shelters, where our volunteer attorneys serve meals and provide general legal advice to program residents concerning areas of law that impact them most. We have conducted this program at Mariners Inn Shelter and Treatment Center for the Homeless and various Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries shelter locations.
What programs does the WBA offer?
The WBA is committed to equal justice, equal access. The way we achieve this goal is by offering programs geared toward diversifying the legal profession and providing educational opportunities concerning issues that impact the community. The WBA and the foundation, its charitable arm, offers many programs in this regard including but not limited to: scholarship, pipeline, mentorship, community outreach, social justice, membership, minority bar passage, summer clerkship, judicial externship and pro bono efforts.
Who creates the programs for the association?
The Wolverine Bar administers its programming through roughly 20 committees. Each committee is chaired by a WBA member and works to set priorities and budget for the Bar Year. For example, the Community Outreach committee chairperson will propose volunteer efforts while the Summer Clerkship committee chairperson coordinates efforts with participating employers and law schools to ensure students are offered diverse, invaluable work opportunities. Committees report out to the board of directors. Ultimately, the Board of Directors approves the Organization’s programming.
How can people become a part of the programs?
There are certain programs that are reserved for law students and attorneys. However, there are several opportunities that members of the community and various organizations can partner with the WBA on. Specifically, the WBA organizes and co-sponsors educational forums, candidate panels during election years and drives for our community partners’ fundraising efforts. More recently, we have supported efforts for families suffering as a result of the Flint water crisis, election forums and more. These programs are for the public. We encourage all to attend.
How do the programs benefit Detroit?
Our pipeline programming is geared at students of color in Detroit schools. Our pro bono and community outreach efforts mostly take place in the city of Detroit. While our Association supports efforts statewide, Detroiters benefit immensely from our programs.
Who determines which recipient receives the scholarship?
This year, the foundation is awarding the Damon J. Keith Scholarship to four students and the Wolverine Bar Foundation Scholarship to one student. Scholarship amounts and recipients vary from year to year. The foundation has a scholarship committee comprised of WBA members. The committee meets once a year to vet applications submitted by students. The committee makes final recommendations to the President for the awarding of scholarships.
How do law students enter the scholarship program in order to qualify for the award?
Applications are released to the law schools in or around December each year. The Damon J. Keith Scholarship is based on merit and awarded to law students that emulate the type of commitment to social equality and combating racism that has been demonstrated by Judge Damon J. Keith throughout his career. The Wolverine Bar Foundation Scholarship is based on need and awarded to students that have exhibited leadership and dedication to the community. Law students must either be in good standing and enrolled in a law school in the state of Michigan or a Michigan resident, in good standing and currently enrolled and in a law school out-of-state.
Do you have to be a member of the WBA to be a part of a program?
Anyone in the community can participate in our outreach efforts, attend community education forums or take advantage of our pro bono programs. To serve on a WBA committee, you must be a member. As the WBA is an affinity bar association, we have certain requirements for membership.
For more information about these programs and the WBA, please visit their website wolverinebar.org