Law Firm Donates $12.5 Million in Fees to HBCUs After Winning Settlement

Bowie State University. Image: Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images.

The law firm that represented Maryland’s HBCUs in a 15-year lawsuit against the state is donating $12.5 million to colleges and nonprofits from the fees it was awarded in the settlement, Washington Post reports.

Michael D. Jones, who leads the Kirkland & Ellis law firm, represented alumni and supporters of Maryland’s HBCUs in their challenge of systemic underfunding of the schools by the state government. After years of litigation, the case was settled this year when state lawmakers approved hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding in future state budgets for HBCUs.

“So many of us became lawyers to fight injustice and give our clients a fair shake not only in the courtroom but also in society. This case has allowed me, and my colleagues, to do just that,” Jones said in a statement. “I’m gratified by this entire experience, including knowing that this donation will go directly to helping future lawyers gain valuable experience and to fight for justice for others.”

According to the terms of the settlement, the state agreed to pay $22 million in legal fees and costs, with $12.5 allotted for Kirkland & Ellis. The remaining balance was earmarked for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, which also provided legal representation for plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Because they took on the case pro bono, Kirkland & Ellis returned the settlement to universities.

The donations include:

●$5 million to the Dillard University’s Center for Racial Justice in New Orleans to create an endowment that will fund paid internships for students at civil rights and public interest organizations.

●$3 million to Morgan State University’s Robert M. Bell Center for Civil Rights in Education to fund the center’s racial justice initiatives and fellowships for students.

●$2 million for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law to establish a fellowship program for students including those studying law at HBCUs.

●$1 million to the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education for fellowships and internships, particularly on Capitol Hill.

●$600,000 to Howard University’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center.

●$600,000 to the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, which is the group that brought the HBCU lawsuit in Maryland.

●$250,000 to the African Methodist Episcopal Church Second District for advocacy work and scholarships for HBCU students.

For the next decade, an additional $577 million per year will be divided among the state’s four public HBCUs which are Coppin State University and Morgan State University in Baltimore, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne.

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