Who Are We? What Are We Doing to Make a Difference?

For nearly two decades the Foundation—formerly the American Intellectual Property Law Education Foundation—has worked for the advancement of diversity in the IP profession. In 2020, the Foundation adopted its new name—Foundation for Advancement of Diversity in IP Law— to accompany an expansion of the Foundation’s longstanding programming aimed at attracting more individuals invested in the advancement of members of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups into the IP law profession—and enhancing their opportunities for achievement in the profession once completing law school.

For the past two decades, the principal activity of the Foundation has been to provide financial assistance to law students demonstrating an interest in pursuing a career in IP law. The flagship program of the Foundation—its Sidney B. Williams, Jr. Scholar Program—has been a remarkable success. The more than $2.5 million in scholarships that have been awarded to over 140 law students since 2002 have both sparked an interest in IP law careers among those who have received these awards and provided much-needed and much-appreciated help as the cost of a law school education has grown dramatically.

Today, the Sidney B. Williams, Jr. Scholar Program works to further interest in, and readiness for, a career in patent law for STEM-educated individuals whose educational backgrounds make them ideal candidates to become patent lawyers. In addition to the program’s historic focus on students already in law school, the Foundation’s Scholar Program is now tailored to support individuals who are seeking law school admission in order to explore a career in patent law.

The Sidney B. Williams, Jr. Scholar Program provides mentoring and financial assistance to prospective law students through the law school admissions process and, once in law school, continues career-readiness assistance by offering opportunities to study for and take the patent bar examination, as well as attend meetings of one or more of the national IP bar associations—the American Intellectual Property Law Association and the Section of Intellectual Property Law of the American Bar Association. In addition, the Foundation sponsors an annual convocation of Scholars designed to further the connectedness of Scholars to the IP community.

The Foundation, working with its partnering organizations, augments financial assistance with meaningful one-on-one personal help. The Foundation’s mentoring/coaching/advising assistance focuses on the inclusiveness of attorneys from a diverse set of backgrounds, and their ultimate career success, in the IP law profession.

Elements of this program depend for their success on the willingness of both law firms and corporate IP organizations to support these efforts through volunteer mentors from within their patent attorney ranks, summer internship opportunities for Scholars, other network opportunities, and—ultimately—job-finding assistance.