Thanks to the wisdom of his forebears, Courtney Malveaux ’02 has long practiced a simple but effective way of making a difference.
He reaches back.
“One ethos that my parents gave me was that as you move forward in life you have an obligation to reach back and pull others up,” says Malveaux, a principal in the Richmond, Virginia, office of Jackson Lewis. P.C. “And so, as they stood on the shoulders of my grandparents and moved ahead, I in turn stood on their shoulders and carry that ethos forward.”
Malveaux certainly reached back as a 1L when he arrived at William & Mary Law School in 1999. In a class of 201 students, he and other members of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) discovered they were the only 11 African Americans—less than six percent of the class. And they knew the school could do better.
Malveaux and other members of his BLSA chapter linked up with the Admissions team and helped greet admitted students to make them feel at home. The efforts paid off, and the number of African-American students in the Class of 2003 doubled from 11 to 22.
“I don’t know if we can claim all the credit, but using a personal touch and letting people know that this was the place for them really did a lot,” Malveaux says. “There was a 23rd student who accepted, but was ultimately unable to attend because of lack of money.”
That 23rd student was never far from Malveaux’s thoughts. As an alum, he went on to create the Reaching Back Scholarship, an expendable award that provides support to incoming students of color.
The scholarship has inspired those it helps financially to act in turn. As a recipient, Yasmine Palmer ’21 has not only been able to concentrate on international law and serve as president of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Team, but she and fellow students are helping others.
"Last year, BLSA’s chosen theme was ‘Lift as We Climb,’” Palmer explains. “We recognized the importance of doing what we could in our position as future lawyers to make space and create resources for those who would come after us. This is precisely what Courtney has accomplished with the Reaching Back Scholarship.”
Palmer says that Malveaux’s generosity has enabled diverse students like her to pursue their legal ambitions without the weight of heavy financial burden. “I am both thankful and honored to be a recipient,” she says.
More recently, Malveaux has extended his willingness to help others in perpetuity by creating an endowed scholarship. The Reaching Back Scholarship Endowment will provide need-based scholarship support for students, with a preference for those who attended historically black colleges or who contribute to the diversity of the Law School.
Malveaux feels the time is right for this effort, especially as law schools and legal workplaces across the country deal with issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“The challenges around us abound,” Malveaux says. “There are so many opportunities for all of us to not just lament the lack of diversity around us, but actually to take ownership of the issue and invest in it as game changers.”
Malveaux is especially encouraged by the addition of Ben Spencer as Dean of William & Mary Law School. He likes how Spencer is looking at issues more holistically and globally, and considers him “off to a great start.”
“Dean Spencer is not just looking at diversity in the Law School, but also equity within the Law School, and then the Law School’s imprint on the world and in the legal community, in the geographic community, and also providing a more equitable and just legal system,” Malveaux says. “My hat’s off to him that he’s doing that; there’s so much opportunity to create change.”
Malveaux has served William & Mary Law School for more than two decades, beginning when he was President of the Student Bar Association and, as an alumnus, in numerous capacities, from Vice-President of Alumni Activities to President of the William & Mary Law School Association’s Board of Directors. Most recently, he has been nominated to be a trustee on the Marshall-Wythe School of Law Foundation.
Before joining Jackson Lewis, where he is co-leader of the firm’s Workplace Safety and Health practice group, Malveaux enforced occupational safety and health law and other state and federal labor laws as Virginia’s Labor Commissioner while also serving as President of the National Association of Government Labor Officials. Among many honors, he was the 2020 recipient of the National Law Review’s Go-To Thought Leadership Award (2020) and from 2014-2020 was considered one of the Virginia Business Magazine’s “Legal Elite.”
At William & Mary Law he has received the Distinguished Alumnus Award (2012), the George Wythe Award (2002) and the Gambrell Professionalism Award (2001).
Malveaux considers his law scholarship a small piece of a larger effort that begins much earlier, in primary and secondary education. “The pipeline is so important to allowing generations access to the educational system,” he says. “My challenge to others is to to jump in and support access to legal education at all levels.”
That includes a willingness to simply plant the idea of education in young people. At the law school level, Malveaux believes alumni can make a difference by mentoring current students, reaching out to admitted students, and even recruiting potential students or lawyers.
“When you meet bright young people, plant the idea that they might go to law school,” he says. “So much of it for them is just getting a tap on the shoulder and hearing they’d be great at this.”
Looking at William & Mary’s law students today, Malveaux is heartened by their willingness to serve and to support good causes.
“They’re so together, so focused and so bright, with big hearts,” he says. “Maybe the best move for me is to get out of the way and let them lead. The stories they have to tell amaze me. I can’t wait to see them do so much more and so much better than I or anyone else has done.”
As his 20th law school reunion approaches in 2022, Malveaux says he’d “do it again in a heartbeat,” and thanks the Law School for being a game changer, not just for his career in law, but for opportunities to reach back and pull up others.
“It’s been the fastest 20 years of my life; it’s given me tremendous opportunities to have a positive impact on family, community, clients, and my legal practice,” Malveaux says. “William & Mary was the genesis for those opportunities—I’m looking forward to the next 20 years.”
If you would like to contribute to the Reaching Back Scholarship Endowment, please contact Katey Howerton, Associate Dean for Advancement at (757) 221-1394 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about scholarships that support diversity at William & Mary Law.About William & Mary Law School
Legal education in a university setting began at William & Mary in 1779. Now in its third century, America's first law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.