MU organization to host prelaw diversity conference

The Black Pre-Law Student Association will host a diversity conference March 9 in hopes of diversifying the legal community.
The Black Pre-Law Student Association will host a statewide Pre-Law conference on March 9, 2019. Courtesy of Facebook via @MizzouBPLSA

MU students Tyler Brumfield and Kaitlyn Sawyer returned from a conference at Harvard Law School with a goal in mind.

After attending the 2017 and 2018 National Black Pre-Law Conference, Brumfield and Sawyer — both members of MU’s Black Pre-Law Student Association — hoped to establish a statewide conference devoted to increasing diversity in prelaw programs.

On March 9, the BPLSA will host the first Missouri Pre-Law Diversity Conference at MU School of Law, completing what Sawyer and Brumfield sought to create after being influenced by the national conferences.

The conference will feature appearances and speeches from Magistrate Judge Willie Epps Jr. and Evangeline Mitchell, who founded the National Black Pre-Law Conference, Brumfield said.

Brumfield, the BPLSA’s president, said the preparations for the conference included a high level of fundraising. However, he noticed an eagerness from on- and off-campus groups to support the project.

“Since there's such a need for the diversification of the legal education system, all of our sponsors and people that we spoke to, they've been very open to the idea and receptive to having a conference here,” Brumfield said.

The event has received funding from groups such as MU’s Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, the Missouri Students Association and MU’s History Department, Sawyer said.

Sawyer, BPLSA’s treasurer, said the organization was inspired to establish a statewide diversity conference at MU due to underrepresentation of black people involved in law.

“There is a great need for African-American lawyers in the legal profession,” Sawyer said. “That’s our emboldening factor for us, to have some type of conference or some type of network for students of diverse backgrounds.”

As of 2017, 5 percent of lawyers in the American Bar Association identified as black, according to the association’s lawyer population survey.

Brumfield said the BPLSA expects 150 to 200 students to attend the conference. He also said that students can attend independently or with a Missouri school’s prelaw organization.

While the event will feature keynote speakers, Brumfield said there will be workshops and networking opportunities for conference attendees.

Brumfield also said representatives from law programs, such as Washington University and Ohio State University, will meet with attendees and provide application fee waivers at a law fair during the conference.

Sawyer said she believes the support of on- and off-campus groups represents a larger push for more black law students and lawyers.

“Although we might see rhetoric on this campus or nationally, that diversity may not be an issue,” Sawyer said. “There's people who are committed to the cause and there are people who want to help students who are very ambitious.”

Brumfield said he takes pride in the fact that the conference’s inaugural event will take place at MU.

“It's just really interesting just to see all that come together and culminate into one space,” Brumfield said. “I’m glad that space is here at the university.”

Edited by Stephi Smith | ssmith@themaneater.com

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