Black Law Student Association launches undergraduate arm

Media Credit: Sarah Urtz | Hatchet Photographer

Nya Campbell, a freshman studying political science and a member of the organization, said she wants the group to help “raise awareness” and up the relatively low percentage of black lawyers currently in the legal field.

A student group in the law school is trying to give minority students an avenue to learn about the legal field as undergraduates.

Members of the Black Law Student Association are recruiting undergraduate students to form a pre-law chapter of the group and engage black students who have an interest in eventually pursuing a profession in the legal field. Members of the pre-law organization, which is in the process of registering with the Center for Student Engagement, said the group will help students navigate the legal field with educational opportunities – like visits to law schools and group discussions with law professors – that are often unavailable to minority students.

Students involved with the group operate under the national umbrella of BLSA, an organization that seeks to encourage black students to enter the legal field through events like academic leadership retreats and conferences.

Aaron Ruffin, a third-year law student and the president of BLSA, said he initially spearheaded an effort last month to get the undergraduate chapter started because he wanted to expose black students to the legal field before potentially entering law school. Ruffin said he first checked in with black undergraduates last month to ensure there was enough interest in the undergraduate chapter.

About 10 students attended the group’s first meeting in the law school Tuesday, but 16 students have indicated interest, Ruffin said. At the meeting, the group members discussed their mission – to increase the number of black and minority attorneys – and why they were interested in starting a pre-law chapter.

During the meeting, members selected officers for the group, including the president, vice president, treasurer and secretary, he said. Ruffin said members will also need to register the group with the national BLSA chapter.

“There’s just no blueprint in how to navigate the legal profession, how to navigate the legal application, particularly for minorities,” Ruffin said. “That’s a structure that tends to be in place for other groups.”

Ruffin said many of the events the group plans to host will be determined by members of the group once they are officially established as a student organization over the next two weeks. He said he ultimately wants the group to give undergraduates a way to become more competitive applicants for law school.

Currently, black students comprise about 8 percent of the total law school population, according to institutional research.

Marcus Ware, an assistant director of advising and the pre-law adviser for the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, said he will advise the organization as it meets once every month in the law school. Ware, who currently advises Mock Trial and Moot Court, said he often receives information from black student organizations outside the University on opportunities and events for “diverse pre-law students.”

Ware said the group will “get exposed to law schools” with trips outside GW and will bring in a speaker series of law professors “so that they are continuously being exposed to all aspects of the legal field.”

“Nationally, black people are still severely underrepresented in the legal profession,” Ware said. “I think we are really committed to making sure we do all that we can to make sure that folks feel supported and they are on the right path to go to law school. This is just one of the ways we can do that.”

Nya Campbell, a freshman studying political science and a member of the organization, said she wants the group to help “raise awareness” and up the relatively low percentage of black lawyers currently in the legal field. About 3 percent of associates and fewer than 2 percent of partners are black in major law firms, The Washington Post reported.

Campbell said Ware first approached her at a Black Student Union event in late August, where he pitched the idea to her. From there, Campbell said she recruited students to join through word of mouth and through friends who were also interested in law school.

“I want that knowledge, that wisdom, so I can go out into the world and spread that the best to my ability,” she said.

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