National Black Pre-Law Conference Tackles Underrepresentation of African American Attorneys
The Eighth Annual National Black Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair 2012 was held from Friday, November 2, 2012 to Saturday, November 3, 2012 at The Westin Galleria in Houston, Texas.
The National Black Pre-Law Admissions & Preparation Conference and Law School Recruitment Fair was created to address this need through providing aspiring Black lawyers with game-changing "insider" information, resources, and contacts to help increase their chances of success in pursuing a professional legal education and gaining entry into the legal profession. This year’s event was held from Friday, November 2, 2012 to Saturday, November 3, 2012 at The Westin Galleria in Houston, Texas. Approximately 400 people from all across the country attended this worthwhile event in some capacity.
The schedule was jam-packed with everything any aspiring lawyer would need to know to make a thoughtful and well-informed decision regarding pursuing law school and the legal profession. There were powerful and thought-provoking sessions made up of expert law school administrators and accomplished law students, lawyers and judges imparting critical information and wisdom on everything from the law school admissions process, the Law School Admission Test, personal and diversity statements, financing a legal education, the realities of student loan debt on lifestyle and career choices, selecting a law school, preparing for and making the most of the law school experience, diversity issues in law school and in the legal work environment, passing the bar exam, different legal career options, non-traditional paths, and more.
Moreover, participants had the unique opportunity to actually experience what it feels like to be a law student in the law school classroom through preparing for and participating in mock law classes taught by actual law school professors. Special signature events were conducted which enabled them to ask questions and get answers one-on-one, as well as receive personal, practical assistance and feedback on their admissions materials from knowledgeable law school administrators, and law student and attorney mentors. A mock LSAT administration was also conducted, as well as a test-taking strategies session by an LSAT expert.
Furthermore, the Law School Recruitment Fair featured representatives from over 100 law schools, from all tier levels from all over the nation. In addition, there was a networking and making connections social mixer so that attendees could have the opportunity to make meaningful connections and create a foundation for building relationships with those who could assist them along the way. They also had the chance to connect with like-minded, achievement-
Highlights of the conference included powerful keynote speeches from prominent attorneys including Angela T. Rye, Executive Director and General Counsel for the Congressional Black Caucus, Sherry D. Williams, Senior Vice President and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer for Halliburton, Leonard M. Baynes, Professor of Law and Director of The Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development at St. John’s University School of Law, Brian Tippens, Director of Compliance and Social Responsibility for Global Procurement at the Hewlett-Packard Company, Carla D. Pratt, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at the Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law, and Brian Nelson, Special Assistant Attorney General for the California Department of Justice.
There were also special guest speeches given from several successful law students and attorneys including Demetris White Cheatham, Executive Director of the National Bar Association, Lisa M. Tatum, President-Elect of the State Bar of Texas, Deshonda Charles Tackett, President of the Houston Lawyers Association, Kendra Brown, Chairperson of the National Black Law Students Association, C.E. Rhodes, President of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, Stanley Settle II, Director of the Pre-Law Division of the National Black Law Students Association, Bryan D. Snoddy, President of the African American Section of the State Bar of Texas, and Ronald C. Green, Comptroller of the City of Houston.
One of the most memorable and awe-inspiring events of this year’s conference was The Legacy Builders Awards Banquet and Aspiring Lawyers Pinning Ceremony, where lawyers shared their personal stories detailing their own journeys to becoming lawyers. This year’s Legacy Builder honorees who were recognized for their sacrificial efforts to help others with law school aspirations achieve their goals included Attorney John Crump and Attorney Arthur L. Burnett Sr. John Crump is the Executive Director Emeritus of the National Bar Association, who served the organization for over 30 years and created the Crump Law Camp, a residential summer camp for high school students interested in pursuing law school one day. Judge Arthur L. Burnett Sr. is the Executive Director of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc., who was also the first African American United States magistrate and a legal advisor to a President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, among other achievements, and has consistently gone above and beyond to provide mentorship and job opportunities to future and current law students. Both men were recognized and thanked by actual pre-law students and then serenaded with a gospel selection to honor their spirit of service. The elegant evening ended with each aspiring lawyer being asked to repeat the “Aspiring Lawyer Success Pledge” and to come forward and be pinned with an eagle pendant by current lawyers. They were also asked to accept a velvet pouch of seeds symbolizing their social responsibility to also sow seeds into others, give back and pay it forward as they reach their own goals so that they would understand the necessity of this in order for the African American community to continue to move forward.
Conference participants were able to walk away as more sophisticated legal education consumers and with a better sense of what they were possibly getting themselves into and what it really takes to successfully pursue the challenging path of becoming a lawyer. According to numerous participants, the event was “life-changing”
This year’s event was sponsored by Baker Botts LLP, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, Huron Legal/Huron Consulting Group, Thompson & Knight LLP and Microsoft. Contributing sponsors included Proctor & Gamble, Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP, Ballard Spahr LLP, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Andrews Kurth LLP, Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, Jackson Walker LLP, Sidley Austin LLP, Steptoe & Johnson LLP and Bracewell & Giuliani LLP. The test preparation partner was Bell Curves LLC and the national media partner was Radio One.
The ninth annual event is scheduled to take place from Friday, November 15, 2013 to Saturday, November 16, 2013 at The Westin Houston – Memorial City in Houston, Texas. For more information, please visit the official conference website at http://www.blackprelawconference.com. Registration officially opens January 15, 2013. This world-class event is free of charge and open to the public.