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Introducing the Black Law Students Association

Student-led organizations play an important role in helping students succeed in law school and leave prepared for their legal careers. These groups help build a sense of community and create networking opportunities for students. They provide students with opportunities to develop leadership skills, to engage in academic and professional activities that complement the academic curriculum, and to connect with other students with shared interests. 

The need for such organizations is perhaps best illustrated by law students who come from historically marginalized groups. The Black Law Students Association (BLSA) plays a vital role in creating a supportive and inclusive environment at UNB Law. Through programming and events, the BLSA provides a platform for students to connect with each other, share experiences and resources, and advocate for policies and initiatives that promote equity and diversity within the law school—and the greater legal profession.

Briana Hartley (3L) and Kelsey Sibanda (2L) lead UNB’s chapter of the BLSA. 

“The BLSA was formed to help remove institutionalized barriers facing black Canadians as they move through law school and into the legal profession,” said Hartley. “The UNB chapter is focused on promoting black interests and perspectives on campus to encourage black applicants to attend law school and to support black students through networking and social opportunities while at law school.”

One of the BLSA’s most successful events this past academic year was a collaborative effort with LGBTQ+ student society, OUTLaw. The joint event, Taking up Space: Being Authentically You in the Legal Profession, featured speakers Hadiya Roderique and Connie Campbell.

“The panel-led discussion focused on how black and LGBTQ+ law students and grads can confidently enter, maneuver, and thrive in a space where they are considered an outsider or different,” said Hartley. “It was a very important discussion for law students who are preparing to enter the workforce.”

Another important mandate of the BLSA is building awareness and working to address low black enrollment within law schools. The BLSA hosts a law school application clinic, an information session for black students interested in attending law school. They learn about what law school is like and the application process—information related to personal letters and discretionary application processes—all with the goal of getting black students to apply.

“For some, the whole process and even attending law school can be quite intimidating or seem out of reach,” said Sibanda. “We want to show them that if you work hard, study hard, and you have the motivation, then you can do it.”

Connecting with BLSA chapters across Canada

The BLSA is a member of the national chapter, the Black Law Students’ Association of Canada. They are connected with chapters across the country, whom they communicate with regularly and network with at an annual conference. This national conference provides a platform to discuss current issues within the black community, career development opportunities, and connects law students with inspiring black people in the legal industry. This February, both Hartley and Sibanda attended the 32nd annual national conference in Halifax, NS.

“The conference is all about promoting awareness and fostering engagement with black law students,” said Hartley. “It is a social opportunity, not just networking, but a chance to build a sense of togetherness. There is also the educational element—daily panels featuring black lawyers, academics, and social advocates who work in predominantly black communities.”

Hartley and Sibanda attended a panel on community advocacy presented by a group of community leaders and criminal defense lawyers who discussed ways lawyers can make a difference in black communities. They also attended a panel on abolition and criminal law, a meaningful discussion on criminal law and its disproportionate prosecution of indigenous and black persons.

For Sibanda, attending the national conference was unforgettable.

“As a student, being at a conference with so many inspirational members of our community including students, lawyers, and judges, and hearing stories of their challenges and how they overcame those challenges which lead to their success was incredible.”

In her first year at UNB Law, Sibanda served on the national chapter as a BLSA Canada communications committee member. She provided marketing and communications support and hosted episodes of the BLSA Canada Fireside Chat Series, interviewing Paul Davis, Partner at McMillan LLP and Justice David St. Pierre, of the Provincial Court of British Columbia (Port Coquitlam).

“It was a great experience working with the BLSA national chapter last year. I had the opportunity to work with talented members of the legal community and build meaningful connections with them.” 

A call for support

The presence of BLSA at UNB Law is essential in fostering a more diverse and equitable law school and legal community. The BLSA has focused much of its attention on establishing mentorship opportunities for black law students and undergrad and high school students who may wish to pursue a career in law.

“We are really working hard to increase the number of black applicants at UNB Law,” said Hartley. “One of the main ways we are doing this is through community outreach. We are looking for alumni who may be interested in volunteering as mentors for black students, or who would be willing to speak at our events to share their experience and insight.”

If you are interested in getting involved with UNB’s Black Law Students Association, please email Kelsey Sibanda (

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