Fifteen years ago, Maryland's four HBCUs–Coppin State, Bowie State, Morgan State, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore fought against systemic underfunding by filing a lawsuit against the state. The universities, represented by the Kirkland & Ellis law firm, eventually settled earlier this year, as Blavity previously reported.

Resultingly, the HBCUs were granted an extra $57.7 million in yearly funding to share amongst themselves, with payments set to begin in 2023 and continue until 2033.

In Maryland's settlement, the state agreed to cough up $22 million in legal fees, with $12.5 million earmarked explicitly for Kirkland & Ellis. The remaining $9.5 million went towards the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. — However, because the law firm represented the universities on a pro bono basis, the $12.5 million is being donated and put towards HBCU student organizations, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Photo credit: Sarah Pflug

Of Kirkland & Ellis' cut, $5 million will go towards Dillard University's Center for Racial Justice to fund internships at civil rights organizations. Morgan State's Robert M. Bell Center for Civil Rights in Education is getting $3 million, and the Lawyers' Committee is receiving $2 million to create a fellowship program for law students. And $1 million will be utilized to help establish more internship and fellowship opportunities on Capitol Hill. 

Additionally, the law firm is also donating $600,000 to Howard University's Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, $600,000 to the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, and $250,000 to Baltimore's African Methodist Episcopal Church.

"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," said attorney Michael D. Jones of Kirkland & Ellis. "This case has allowed me and my colleagues to do just that. 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."