Annual Report 2023-2024

Look back with Esq. Apprentice on our accomplishments, challenges, and learnings as we take confident steps towards an exciting and impactful new chapter, together.

Letter from the Director

Dear Esq. Apprentice Community,

As I write this, I have my eyes on a wooden statue a dear friend of mine gifted me from her trip to Ghana a few years back. It depicts a mythical bird flying forward, but with its head turned backward, and an egg in its mouth. The bird is a symbol for “Sankofa,” an Akan word that means, “go back and fetch it.”

Sankofa teaches the importance of understanding and honoring one’s history and heritage in order to move forward with strength. It’s a principle that has guided our work at Esq. Apprentice since its inception–but the wisdom of Sankofa has perhaps never rang more true for our organization than at this very moment.

This last year, we sought out to refresh our program model to drive better outcomes and scale our impact. So, we looked back at our first nine years of life as an organization by conducting 12 60-minute interviews with Esq. Apprentice mentors, apprentices, tutors, and SMEs. In these pages, you’ll learn about the invaluable insights that helped us shape the next iteration of our work.

We unveiled a comprehensive redesign of our website to better serve and connect with our community, and amplify awareness of our impact.

With our new organizational logo, we created a symbol that resonates with our community and powerfully communicates our vision and values.

We bid farewell to two esteemed members of our board whose dedication and leadership have significantly shaped our nonprofit's mission and impact.

And finally, we conceived The Excelerator, an innovative new program that will help aspiring lawyers take control of their legal careers and how they feel in them. The initiative launches in the fall of 2024 and you can read all about it on page [TBD].

2023-24 brought unprecedented challenges to Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian women in poverty who aspire to become licensed attorneys. Thanks to your support, Esq. Apprentice met the moment. I invite you to look back with us on our accomplishments, challenges, and learnings as we take confident steps towards an exciting and impactful new chapter, together.

In gratitude,

Photo of Rachel Johnson Farias

Signature of Rachel Johnson Farias
Illustration of the Akan symbol Sankofa

2023-24 Milestones

At a Glance: Esq. Apprentice’s 2023-24 Milestones

Esq. Apprentice unveils new organizational logo

In April of 2023, Esq. Apprentice started a six-month journey to develop a new logo for our organization. Our new logo represents more than just a graphic; it imagines a legal system that actually reflects the communities it claims to serve, and helps us imagine a new generation of lawyers—all with vital experience with the realities of low- and middle-income living; mixed-status immigrant households; and being a person of color in America–leveraging legal apprenticeship on their paths towards becoming licensed attorneys. With a more modern visual identity, we seek to attract new supporters, strengthen existing partnerships, and inspire confidence in our work.

Esq. Apprentice launches redesigned website

In April of 2023, Esq. Apprentice unveiled a comprehensive redesign of our website to enhance user experience and better serve our community. The redesigned website was carefully crafted to provide visitors with easier access to resources, information, and opportunities to engage with our organization. With the modernized online platform, Esq. Apprentice can amplify our outreach efforts, strengthen connections with stakeholders, better showcase our work, and highlight the impact of our programming.

The State Bar of California increases legal apprenticeship fees by 400%

In early 2024, Esq. Apprentice discovered that the State Bar of California raised legal apprenticeship fees by 400%, making it that much more expensive for Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian women living in poverty to pursue a career in law. And when we let our community know about it, they showed up. We raised over $2,000 to give low-income women of color the tools and support they need to become attorneys–the largest amount of donations we’ve received for a single email campaign–and we learned that the Esq. Apprentice community has a strong appetite for mobilizing for systems change. We hope to share more on that soon.

Esq. Apprentice embarks on a six-month program redesign process

In August 2023, Esq. Apprentice set out to learn from Esq. Apprentice stakeholders on how we might refresh our model. Our questions? What can we learn from the current legal landscape? What can we learn from the lived experiences of our stakeholders? What does meaningful support look and feel like for women of color from low-income communities? We document our learnings–and what’s coming next–on page XX.

Esq. Apprentice partners with Tipping Point Community and Cardenas Consulting Group to produce the Mental Health & Wellness Roadmap

Esq. Apprentice collaborated with funding partner, Tipping Point Community, and Cardenas Consulting Group, to identify mental health and wellness issues that are a barrier to achieving long-term positive outcomes among organization staff, and the people we serve. The project resulted in the Mental Health & Wellness Roadmap, a set of strategies that will enable our organization to formalize support systems that help address mental health challenges within the Esq. Apprentice community, infuse mental health and wellbeing considerations into all aspects of operations (from program development and staff management, to decision-making processes), review participant recruitment, screening, and admission through a mental health and wellness lens, and more.

Esq. Apprentice Program Redesign

Esq. Apprentice is growing and developing an ecosystem that supports legal apprenticeship

In 2023-24, Esq. Apprentice sought out to revitalize our model to explore how to scale our programming. We partnered with Rochelle Ardesher with The Field Design, who conducted a series of 12 one-hour interviews with Esq. Apprentice mentors, apprentices, tutors, and subject matter experts (SMEs).

Through the process, we learned that apprentices struggle to navigate the complex apprenticeship journey towards licensure in silos, and often feel isolated from internal support networks within law offices. This can result in a fragmented experience, often leading to isolation and challenges in balancing work, study, and family commitments, as well as insufficient time for exam preparation. Apprentices’ supervising attorneys require greater institutional support and collaboration, and seek more guidance and networking opportunities. Finally, the Bar Association lacks formal monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for apprentices, which hinders effective data collection and learning tracking.

1. Currently, the legal apprenticeship path is vague and unclear.

“There’s no institutional support for apprentices. The Bar Association gives none. They don’t want people going this route – they have to manage a mini bureaucracy to handle the paperwork and stuff that’s generated by the people who are doing this. There must be more people doing apprenticeships, but there’s just no data.” – Subject Matter Expert (SME)

2. Law firms lack institutionalized support for apprentices and mentors alike.

“If someone asked me to be a mentor, I definitely would say no…and so that’s why I think depersonalizing it and really making it more of a systems change is necessary.” –Subject Matter Expert (SME)

3. Ensuring a genuine interest and readiness among apprentice candidates is essential.

“My biggest concern was: Is this right for my life? Not just the career but…the lifestyle. My big thing was what does that look like? Is this going to be a…safe decision for me? I’ve worked so hard to get here, do I need to do more? Am I okay with where I’m at?” – Apprentice

Esq. Apprentice is growing and developing an ecosystem that supports legal apprenticeship

The refreshed model will address these issues by strengthening institutional support across law firms, supervising attorneys, and legal apprentices. Esq. Apprentice will work to align all stakeholders with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) standards, establish structure and accountability for work, study, and life commitments, and foster stronger relationships and understanding among all.

Establishing collaborative structures

Esq. Apprentice will establish DEI guidelines and trainings, help set expectations and roles, and build up internal support systems. We will design curriculum supports for Baby Bar and Bar exam prep, create weekly class structure, and establish accountability processes.

Setting up and facilitating the network

Esq. Apprentice will prepare prospective apprentices for entry-level positions in law offices through our new, three-month Excelerator program. We will facilitate mentor matching, Baby Bar Exam prep, 1:1 coaching support, community support & financial assistance with exam fees.

Making improvements to recruitment and retention

Esq. Apprentice Activities
Targeted Audience
Outcomes

3-month Excelerator (Pre-Program)

Potential Apprentices & Supervising Attorneys

  • Jobs skills and basic legal training of 30
    Excelerator Fellows
  • Job fair & networking opportunities for law firms

Apprentice screening & assessment, mentor matching, MOU templates, bi-annual check-ins with Supervising Attorneys, DEI management skills training for law office staff & ongoing MCLE credits.

Law Offices, Supervising Attorneys & Staff

  • High-quality legal apprentice candidates / prepared paralegal (1 year trial run prior to offer to hire full time employment)
  • DEI management skills consulting & continued professional development for law offices

Access to Baby Bar & Bar exam prep, peer study groups, community support, 1:1 coaching, mental health, annual brown bag lunches

Law Offices, Supervising Attorneys, Apprentices,
Staff and Partners

  • Career path to licensing (admin, paralegal, accredited representative, licensed lawyer)
  • Reliable and retainable legal staff for law offices

Announcing: The Excelerator

The Esq. Apprentice Excelerator is a three-month preparatory program that will help aspiring attorneys make more informed choices about their legal careers. It is comprised of three parts.

Participants will engage in the following activities.

A two-hour weekly course

Participants can expect homework assignments, reflections, and projects

Guided experiential learning program

Participants will build foundational legal knowledge and skills

In-person professional learning & development

Networking events, panel discussions, workshops, and exposure visits

The Year Ahead

Vision

Our vision is a redesigned American legal system where all people, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or gender, have access to a law license, and the economic opportunity that often comes with it.

Mission

Our mission is to create a debt-free path to law licensing for low-income women of color, spearheading a more diverse, economically empowered, and justice-centered legal profession.

Here’s where we’re headed in the coming year.

Launch The Esq. Apprentice Excelerator fall of 2024

In the fall, Esq. Apprentice will launch the Excelerator, a three-month prepatory program to arm low-income women of color with the knowledge and skills they need to embark on the four-year apprenticeship path.

Increase cohort sizes

Until now, Esq. Apprentice has intentionally focused on providing in-depth, holistic services to small cohorts of 4-8 women of color. Now, for the first time ever, we will be more than quadrupling our impact by making our pre-apprenticeship program–the Excelerator–available to 30 aspiring California lawyers.

Build Esq. Apprentice’s community partnerships

Finding an attorney to supervise apprenticeship is one of the most difficult components of legal apprenticeship. In response, Esq. Apprentice now seeks partnership with four to eight community partners who can reserve a place or two for our apprentice fellows to grow and thrive. Each partner guarantees at least one year of supervision per apprentices and will work closely with Esq. Apprentice to improve outcomes for apprentice fellows, supervising attorneys and firms, and low-income communities.

Launch Esq. Apprentice’s Paralegal Certification Partnership Program

Did you know that folks who are officially registered in California apprenticeships can attend community college free of charge? With Department of Labor approval of our pre-apprenticeship program, Esq. Apprentice will register our apprenticeship with the state of California and bolster existing partnerships with community colleges to make the paralegal certification pathway a viable one for our fellows.

Establish the third generation Esq. Apprentice Board

As Esq. Apprentice undergoes a programmatic transformation, our board is also transforming into its third generation. Esq. Apprentice is seeking four new members to join our board and helps us raise the funds and resources needed to grow this important work. Do you have a network of peers who would like to make a difference? Would you like to leverage that network to increase fiscal support for Esq. Apprentice? If so, email admin@esqapprentice.org and we will follow up with more information about board service.

Board Emeritus

As we close out the fiscal year, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to our esteemed outgoing board members for their invaluable contributions. Thank you for your enduring impact on the Esq. Apprentice community!

Christina Oatfield

Cynthia Chandler

Micah Clatterbaugh

Omonigho Oiyemhonlan

Serina Rankins

Financials

Total Funds Raised

Total Individual Donations

Total Institutional Donations

Increases in Donations Year over Year, 2017 – 2024

We extend our heartfelt thanks to our donors whose generosity over the last year has made our mission to build a more just legal system possible. It’s thanks to you that we can create opportunities for those who have long been excluded from the legal profession, to enter it.

Donors

We extend our heartfelt thanks to our donors whose generosity over the last year has made our mission to build a more just legal system possible. It’s thanks to you that we can create opportunities for those who have long been excluded from the legal profession, to enter it.

*Denoting our sustaining donors whose regular, monthly contributions lay a firm foundation for Esq. Apprentice

Supporter
($0-500)

Alison Forman-Rickert
Anthony Pennisi
Ashley Fischer
Braylan Carroll
Caroline Mason
Cory W Johnson, CPA, LLC
*Elizabeth Sanchez
Emily Yao
Erica Monrose
*Hernan Orozco
*Jamila Johnson Phillips
*Jeremy Goldman
*Jocelyn Wong
Krystale Littlejohn
Lakshmi Damerla
Madhav Kolluri
Marc Janowitz
Mary-Lynn Cesar
*Micah Clatterbaugh
*Michael Carrillo
Mr Mitch
Nana Duffuor
Naomi Gabrielle Tolson
*Rajeev Chanderraj
Rishi Chanderraj
*Sydney Thomas & Associates LLC
Talia Kolluri
Tni LeBlanc
Vanessa Vincent

Champion
(*500-$10000)

*Betsy Cotton
*Erin Le
*La Escoba Cleaning, LLC

Landmark
(*$10000 and above)

California ChangeLawyers
New Profit
Tipping Point Community
The Stupski Foundation

Funders