Pre-Law Pipeline

First-Generation Students in Law School: A Proven Success Model

Jacqueline O'Bryant, University of Memphis
Katharine Traylor Schaffzin, University of Memphis


First-generation college students bring with them to law school both tremendous skills and unique challenges.They bring with them life experiences, interdependent life skills, and work ethics that position them well to grit and grind their way through the challenges of law school. Very little research has been conducted on the experiences of first-generation college students in law school. The research that has been done demonstrates that many of the strengths and challenges facing first-generation college students in the pursuit of their undergraduate degrees persist throughout law school. This purpose of this article is two-fold. The first is to provide a working definition of who are considered as first-generation students and discuss the strengths and challenges they bring with them to higher education. The second is to examine the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Tennessee Institute for Pre-Law (TIP) program’s goals, functions and outcomes using data collected from its participants since 2012.