Student Organization Spotlight: Black Law Students Association
One of the most active student organizations at Georgia State University College of Law is the Ronald J. Freeman Chapter of the Black Law Students Association, better known to many Georgia State Law students as BLSA.
The organization is appreciated for its robust members-only outline collection, and its annual mock exam, which gives new students exposure to real testing conditions prior to final exams.
“We try to provide valuable opportunities to the student body with events like the Mock Exam and Law Week, and we give back through events like BLSA Feed the Hungry,” said Thomaesa Bailey (J.D. ’20), a BLSA executive board member. But, BLSA is much more than just those two benefits, the organization offers a wide variety of opportunities throughout the year including community service, mentorship, and panel discussions highlighting social justice issues in the legal field and in the community.
“The attorneys who volunteer their time to speak or host a meeting actually want to see the people they speak with do well,” said Roland Turner (J.D. ’19), BLSA president. “That can lead to a lot of things down the road.”
“ …We also advocate for change by protesting injustice and speaking out against institutional wrongs. And just in case there’s any confusion, the community doesn’t just include Black law students at Georgia State University. BLSA is for everyone! We put on events that are beneficial for the entire student body and tackle issues that impact all communities, not just the Black community,” Bailey added.
Given its commitment to positively impact the community, the organization was excited about its most recent event, “BLSA Day at the Capitol.” “This event was designed to give students the opportunity to network with elected officials, [for the elected officials] to educate them about what is going on under the gold dome, and to teach them how to advocate for policy changes at the state level,” Bailey said.
The organization offers a lot of information and event access to all Georgia State Law students, but the benefits drastically increase upon becoming a member. Membership benefits range from a private supplemental library, access to the outline bank, and priority access to the Mock Exam, including eligibility to apply for NBLSA scholarships, regional job fairs, academic retreats and unparalleled networking opportunities with other law students, BLSA’s extensive alumni and practicing attorneys.
BLSA’s national network is the largest student run organization in the country. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the National Black Law Student Association. Algernon Johnson (“AJ”) Cooper founded the organization in 1968 with the mission of articulating and promoting the needs and goals of black law students, as well as effectuating change in the legal community. The national organization has more than 6,000 members strong, with more than 200 chapters, and aims to increase the number of culturally responsible Black and minority attorneys who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community. The chapter here at Georgia State University was created with the purpose of achieving those goals locally.
The chapter’s commitment to creating a supportive community for its members, as well as working to better both the legal and local community in Atlanta, makes it no surprise that members point to their relationships as the greatest benefit of membership.
“BLSA provides a tight-knit group of peers for me to learn from and socialize with,” said Charles Theodore (J.D. ’19), BLSA member, “It provides a connection to a huge pool of graduates and lawyer organizations that are eager to help out fellow BLSA members.”
“I want a community around me that will support the actions I take or forgo doing. I can’t speak for everyone, but it allows me to feel a sense of camaraderie between my peers,” Turner said. “The people you meet during your tenure in law school will be the professionals in your field, so this helps you gain access to everyone before they become busy with their jobs. As law students, we are the first people to establish a network with each other and being a part of an organization opens that door.”
Catherine Gavrilidis (J.D.’20) is a Graduate Research Assistant for Law Communications and she serves on the boards of the Association of Women Law Students and Phi Alpha Delta.