In addition to its award-winning research, the ABF is known for building a pipeline of diverse legal scholars and lawyers through its undergraduate fellowships. Formally known as the Montgomery Summer Research Diversity Fellowship Program, the ABF Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program allows undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds who are considering careers in the field of law or social science to gain a hands-on learning experience for eight weeks during the summer. Established in 1988, the SURF program promotes broader inclusion in the legal profession by breaking down barriers often experienced by individuals from diverse backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in the legal profession.
Each Fellow works closely with an ABF Research Professor on their research, affording them the opportunity to be mentored by and take part in sociolegal research with experienced scholars. Fellows gain unparalleled insight into a career in law through visits to the Cook County Criminal Court and to law firms including Banner Witcoff, Sidley Austin LLP, and Kirkland & Ellis. They attend a weekly seminar on social science research and meet with admissions representatives from local law schools. They also learn about legal aid and advocacy through field visits to social justice nonprofits, including the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Bluhm Legal Clinic, and the Uptown People’s Law Center. In 2019, the Fellows even witnessed high-level discussions from legal leaders as they attended the first Legal Summit of the Americas, where Hispanic legal leaders from the United States, Canada, and Mexico gathered to discuss international business and environmental and immigration issues.
“Visiting the Cook County Circuit Court was very interesting,” said Lisette Gonzalez-Flores, 2019 SURF alum. “It’s the first time I saw a trial in action, seeing witnesses on the stand, and getting a firsthand view of what public defenders do and of how the courts affect marginalized communities. I also enjoyed my time at [law firms] because the attorneys were so welcoming and knowledgeable about the legal field. I have never known much about corporate or IP law, but it certainly piqued my interest as a potential career path.”
Many SURF alumni go on to pursue academic careers in the social sciences and law as legal practitioners, deans, and professors of law as well as in the fields of government, social policy, and business. Notable alumni include Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, California Supreme Court Associate Justice (1992 alum); Erika George, Law Professor at the University of Utah College of Law (1992 alum); Danielle Holley-Walker, Dean at Howard University School of Law (1995 alum); and Grey Mateo-Harris, Partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP (2004 alum).
The ABF is proud to lead the community and the nation in fostering the next generation of scholars who can be the catalysts for broader diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession.
The SURF program has received generous support the Kenneth F. and Harle G. Montgomery Foundation, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), Walmart, Kirkland & Ellis, LLP, AT&T, and several individual donors.
To view a list of the past Fellows, visit the Former Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows page.