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Paula Edgar: Diversifying the legal world

Cyril Josh Barker | 12/19/2013, 3:38 p.m.
Attorney Paula Edgar is on a crusade to make a way for more people of color to become lawyers. She ...

Attorney Paula Edgar is on a crusade to make a way for more people of color to become lawyers. She is New York Law School’s (NYLS) new chief diversity officer, the inaugural holder of the position.

As chief diversity officer, Edgar will work closely with NYLS Dean and President Anthony W. Crowell and the whole NYLS community to develop a comprehensive diversity plan, including recruitment, retention and support programs, as well as strategies to aid student professional development and intercultural competence.

“I look forward to welcoming prospective candidates to New York Law School, students with great potential who reflect the racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, age and socioeconomic makeup of our city, state, nation and world,” she said. “They will thrive at this inclusive institution, which provides its student body with incredible tools and opportunities for success.”

A Brooklyn native, Edgar received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from California State University (Fullerton) and her Juris Doctor from the City University of New York School of Law. She practiced law for a short time and cultivated a passion for providing guidance, mentoring and other resources to diverse law students and attorneys.

Prior to coming to NYLS, she was an associate director of career services at Seton Hall University School of Law, where she served as the chair of the Diversity in the Profession Subcommittee of the law school’s Diversity Council.

She previously served as the executive director of the Practicing Attorneys for Law Students Program Inc. (PALS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing diversity in the legal profession and providing mentoring, academic support and networking opportunities to law students and junior attorneys of color. Prior to working at PALS, Edgar practiced law in the Law Enforcement Division of the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

In her new position, she will be collaborating with faculty, administration, staff, students, alumni and other members of the legal profession in this mission. One of her duties is to work with the NYLS admissions team to develop strategies to increase the number of applicants with diverse backgrounds and experiences.

“I think there needs to be more diversity in the legal profession,” she said. “It’s not diverse, and it needs a lot of work. [It’s] not reflective of the world we live in. We have to make sure the pipeline is strong from preschool and that students are achieving in college and choosing a career in law. We want students to also be equipped to interact in a diverse world.”

In addition to focusing on individuals of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, Edgar will be responsible for developing outreach programs and enhancing existing initiatives for veterans and active military members, the LGBTQ community and other groups who have been historically underrepresented in the profession.

Along with serving as chief diversity officer at NYLS, Edgar also chairs the New York City Bar’s Diversity Pipeline Initiatives Committee and is a member of the Minorities in the Profession Committee. She is active in a number of diversity-related community organizations, including the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, the Association of Black Women Attorneys, and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the New York State Bar Association.

“I think that when I was becoming a young Black attorney, it was important for me to have mentors and see people I wanted to strive to be like,” she said. “It makes me happy that we are affecting change.”