ATLANTA—Several hundred students from historically Black colleges and universities across the nation gathered at Emory University over the weekend to hear from experienced lawyers and current law school students about attending law school. Now in its 5th year, the annual National HBCU Pre-Law Summit & Law Expo was created “to address the unique challenges and concerns that HBCU students and graduates have as they prepare to apply to law school,” says Evangeline Mitchell, the Summit’s founder. “Don’t be confused about all of the melanin in the room,” Adria Kimbrough, the Pre-Law advisor at Dillard University told the participants who gathered to hear her speak. “The practice of law continues to be the least diverse profession. It’s important that you all are here and it’s important that you affirm one another.”
Kimbrough—who attended Talladega College before earning a law degree from the University of Cincinnati—was one of 14 Black students in her law school class. Since leaving law school, Kimbrough (who is the wife of Dillard’s President Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough) has held a number of high-profile jobs practicing law in private and university settings with a particular focus on labor and employment. “Success is not always a straight shot,” she said. “There are twists and turns along the way. ”Still, she told the students that if they had the determination and passion for the law, they should persevere. “Somebody is waiting for you to offer them culturally relevant representation,” she said.
Her message resonated with Bryant Williams, 20, a junior at Alabama State University. He arrived at the Summit looking for guidance as he prepares to take the LSAT and begins the process of applying to schools.“This has been a great event,” said Williams, who has dreams of becoming a criminal defense lawyer. “I’ve gotten a lot of information and the speakers all broke down the admissions process. I feel better prepared.”
The impact of the Summit was felt by others, too. “I’ve been to a lot of law school conferences but this one is different because it’s proof that African-Americans are succeeding in the field of law,” said Donte Johnson, 21, a senior at North Carolina A&T University who attended the Summit for the second year. When he graduates in May, Johnson is going to work for two years and then he will begin the application process. Xavier Donaldson, a partner at Donaldson & Chilliest in New York encouraged the students attending the Summit to take the application process seriously.
“Please take a [LSAT] class and a practice test,” said Donaldson, adding that the LSAT and high grades remain the most important criteria for law schools. “It’s not about how smart you are but how well you prepare.”