National Black Pre-Law Conference Pivoted to Virtual Format and Tripled Attendance Reaching Thousands More Aspiring Black Lawyers
This year's conference provided attendees with game-changing "insider" information, resources, and connections to increase their chances of success in the challenging journey to becoming lawyers. The conference was held for four full days and featured nearly 150 keynote speakers, special guest speakers, guest speakers, panelists, virtual meet-up leaders, and moderators. The comprehensive schedule offered everything any aspiring lawyer would need to know. There was a special mock law school class featuring Professor Bryan K. Fair of the University of Alabama School of Law, a social justice master class featuring legendary civil rights lawyer Theodore M. Shaw, and a talk on the importance of doing judicial clerkships with Maryland District Court Judge Zuberi Bakari Williams. Workshops session topics included financing a legal education, preparing for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and writing a compelling personal statement and diversity statement. There were several eye-opening and information-
Dynamic, nationally-known and well-respected attorneys served as featured keynote speakers, and shared powerful words of wisdom, encouragement, and stories of their own personal journeys to and through law school and in the profession. This year's featured keynotes included A. Scott Bolden, Esq., Managing Partner at Reed Smith LLP and television legal commentator, The Honorable Leah Ward Sears, former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court and Partner at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP, Vince Warren, Esq., Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Lonita Baker, Esq., Co-Counsel for Breonna Taylor's family and personal injury and civil rights litigation attorney at Sam Aguiar Injury Lawyers, Nkechi Taifa, Esq., author of "Black Power, Black Lawyer: My Audacious Quest for Justice" and Founder and Principal of The Taifa Group LLC, The Honorable Willie J. Epps, Jr., United States Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, and Gregory Davis, J.D., Ph.D., diversity law expert and quantitative researcher.
In addition to all of the invaluable sessions provided, attendees were able to participate in one of the largest virtual law school recruitment fairs in the country. Over 150 law schools and sponsoring organizations took part. All attendees were encouraged to provide their questions in the session Question-and-
Official virtual meet-ups were arranged so that attendees could have meaningful real-time interactions with knowledgeable law students and lawyers. Law school aspirants were also able to reach out to one another through creating their own virtual meet-ups based on shared interests, and reviewing the attendee profiles and utilizing the networking features on the app to start reaching out to others to create accountability partnerships, ask questions, and find potential mentors. The event ended with a closing ceremony and the recitation of the Aspiring Lawyer Success Pledge with The Honorable J. Machelle Sweeting, Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice. Moreover, all pre-law attendees had the opportunity to receive several complimentary e-books authored by the conference founder covering everything from law school admission, law school survival, passing the bar, and success as a lawyer.
Throughout the years, this conference has stood out as positively impacted thousands of African American aspiring lawyers from all over the nation. In spite of the coronavirus pandemic which required them to pivot from an in-person to a virtual event, this year's event turned out to be their most successful event to date. According to conference founder and organizer Attorney Evangeline M. Mitchell, "We had about 1,000 attendees at our in-person event last year, and this year, with the virtual event format, our attendance has tripled. Our biggest concern was providing opportunities for interaction and the app we used allowed for that and people really took advantage of it. This has us really thinking about our approach to future events. Our ultimate goal is to make an impact and to reach as many aspiring lawyers as possible. Hosting online has allowed us to reach many more people than we could with an in-person event since there are not the time and financial barriers of travel, so we will absolutely consider hosting virtual or hybrid events in the future." Another bonus to registrants is that all of the event content is available on the virtual platform for up to six months after the original conference dates.
Despite a few instances of racially-motivated Zoom-bombing, hacking, and trolling early in the event, the event was seamless. According to Mitchell, "Unfortunately because the event took place soon after the Presidential election and given the racial climate in the country, the possibility of our being targeted as a "Black" event was something on our radar. Given our country's history, when there are efforts that are focused on empowering African American people, it's not unheard of that there are some who would set out to sabotage them. However, despite those additional challenges, we pressed forward and prevailed by successfully hosting our most well-attended event ever and achieving our goal of encouraging and empowering more Black people interested in becoming lawyers."
Further information on the National Black Pre-Law Conference can be found at the official conference website at http://www.BlackPreLawConference.org.
Evangeline M. Mitchell, Esq.