Black Law Student Association creates space for conversation and connection

July 8, 2024

two male and three female members of the Black Law Student Association standing together
Members of the Black Law Student Association

The College of Law’s Black Law Student Association (BLSA) was reactivated in 2022 with the goal of providing support to Black law students while creating educational opportunities for the entire student body.

Lionel D’Almeida, ’23, is the current BLSA vice president and was one of the students who worked to reactivate the chapter. In their 1L year, D’Almeida and his fellow executive team members saw a need for more open discussions on the impact of race and ethnicity in the context of the cases they were studying. This led them to the idea of creating a space specifically for Black law students to connect.

“It was important to give Black law students an organization that they know will champion them, especially given the low percentage of Black lawyers,” he said.

The American Bar Association reports that Black lawyers made up 5% of the legal profession in 2023, while Black Americans made up 13.6% of the population. This number shows little growth from the 4.8% of Black lawyers in 2013. In this same time span, the number of lawyers in other racial and ethnic groups has continued to grow.

These statistics can have an immense impact in the court of law, D’Almeida said.

“If we look at criminal law, Black people and Black men, specifically, are defendants a lot of the time,” he said. “So having an attorney who looks like you is crucial.”

The effort to make the legal field more representative should start long before law school, D’Almeida said. Reaching high school or middle school students and informing them about the path to law school is one possible route for improvement.

“It’s important to start early in order to make people understand that it’s possible and that they would be supported here,” he said. “We can show them that Black law students are doing this, and you can too.”

BLSA’s efforts have also focused on connecting law students to Black professionals in the legal field and community leaders. Last year, they hosted Restorative Justice Coordinator Shakur Abdullah, who was sentenced to life in prison at 17 years old. Abdullah, who was released on parole, shared his story and his expertise on the issues of juvenile justice and mass incarceration.

Members of BLSA also had the opportunity to meet Damon Barry, ’00, Managing Partner of Ballard Spahr’s Denver and Boulder offices, and City Attorney Yohance Christie.

“Being able to make connections with current lawyers and other law students around the state has been one of the best parts of this,” D’Almeida said.

Post-graduation, D’Almeida is looking to secure a position in corporate law and possibly start his own firm one day. He said he hopes the next BLSA executive board continues to coordinate informative, engaging events and adapt to the needs of Black law students at the College of Law.