The law firm Kirkland & Ellis says it is donating $12.5 million to seven historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), nonprofits and community organizations with missions to advance racial justice, equity and civil rights. The money will go toward scholarships, fellowships and public internships for students.
Funding for the donation comes from statutory fees awarded to Kirkland & Ellis by the state of Maryland following a 15-year case between the state and a coalition of students, faculty and alumni at Maryland's four public HBCUs.
Kirkland & Ellis, which is the largest law firm in the world by revenue, represented the coalition on a pro bono basis for 12 years, alongside the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The coalition, which had sued the state for underfunding HBCUs and for allowing predominately white institutions to replicate programs that were pioneered and offered at HBCUs, settled for $577 million from the state.
“Kirkland is deeply invested in using our legal skills to help our communities and advance civil rights, and this work to bring financial equity to Maryland’s HBCUs has been incredibly meaningful to us,” said Jon A. Ballis, chairman of Kirkland’s executive committee. “We are proud to make this donation to schools and programs that are advancing justice and creating opportunities for diverse students to succeed.”
According to Kirkland, each recipient of the donation helped the case in some way. The largest donation will go to Dillard University's Center for Racial Justice in New Orleans, followed by $3 million to Morgan State University’s Robert M. Bell Center for Civil Rights in Education; $2 million to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and $1 million to the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. The remainder will go to Howard University’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center; the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education and the HBCU scholarship fund of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Second District.