Originated in 1994, the scholarship formerly known as the Black, Latino, Asian Pacific American Law Alumni Association Public Service Scholarship was created to promote the practice of law in the public sector by graduates of NYU School of Law. In October 2011, the scholarship was renamed the Derrick Bell Scholarship for Public Service to celebrate Professor Bell and his commitment to legal education, critical thought, and community empowerment. In 2016, Black, Latino, Asian Pacific American Law Alumni Association (BLAPA) was renamed the Law Alumni of Color Association (LACA) to further meet its mission of promoting and supporting the inclusion of alumni, students, and faculty of color in all aspects of law school life.

LACA alumni have contributed funds to create this scholarship to reduce the law school debt burden of second and/or third year students who are members of APALSA, BALSA, LaLSA, MELSA, or SALSA, who have proven their dedication to the public service, who plan to pursue careers in public interest law, and who demonstrate a commitment to social justice in the best tradition of Professor Bell.