The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s focused awareness on the lack of minority lawyers. Ninety-eight percent of the legal profession was white. Law schools had trouble finding qualified minority applicants. The legal profession needed a national commitment to attract and help minority students gain admission to law school.
In 1964, Louis Toepfer, Vice Dean at Harvard Law School convened a group to discuss the possibility of encouraging black students to study law. The result was a summer program at Harvard in 1965 for 40 students, most of whom were juniors at historically black colleges. The program lased eight weeks, was based o selected topics from first-year courses, and provided another basis for admission to law school, besides grade point average and standardized test scores. About half the students who participated in the program were admitted to law school.
Similar pilot summer programs were launched at Emory University, the University of Denver, and UCLA. In 1968, the Council on Legal Education Opportunity was established as the first national program of its kind to coordinate and recruit students to participate in these programs. Thus, the pipeline to the legal profession was opened to a stream of talented students from minority backgrounds.