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Let’s face it. Law schools have never truly represented the full spectrum of race in America. It’s been an issue ever since Heman Marion Sweatt applied for admission to the University of Texas School of Law and was rejected under the “separate but equal” clause from the Texas Constitution because he was black. Sweatt was eventually vindicated in the U.S. Supreme Court, but the issue by no means ended there. Especially now that voters in California and Washington State have eliminated affirmative action admissions, law schools can be very homogeneous places. As Steven Holeman, the national chair of the National Black Law Students Association, puts it, “The fact is that a lot of law schools are not going to have a whole lot of minority students, and that can be intimidating.” Helping them out are a number of organizations that provide a family atmosphere for minority law students who are feeling overwhelmed. Different groups focus on different aspects of life and take different approaches. But between ice cream socials, study outlines, tutoring and mentorship programs and networking opportunities with lawyers in your community who may be in a position to interview you for your next summer associate job, these groups come in pretty handy. Use them. And if your school doesn’t have a local chapter, you can get in touch with the national organization and launch it yourself. NATIONAL BLACK LAW STUDENTS ASSOCIATION Blacks are still underrepresented in law schools, and many schools have only a handful of black students. The National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) works to make such environments less intimidating by providing a family-type atmosphere where black students can talk, study, network and be inspired by the example of others. Typically working out of office space provided by the school, NBLSA chapters represent black law students across the country. NBLSA’s mission is to ensure that when black students enter law school, they have the resources, contacts and materials they need to be successful. Second- and third-year NBLSA members create outlines for 1Ls to help them organize course material and hook up other 2Ls and 3Ls with tutors — either fellow law students or lawyers in the community. NBLSA also works with blacks who are applying to law school and need feedback on their applications; they read over application materials and essays and let them know what areas need strengthening and what they should add. “If we know somebody is applying to law school, we can tell them what they need to do for their application,” says Steven Holeman, the NBLSA’s national chair. “We’re trying to increase the numbers of African-American law students, and there’s a lot that we can do, but there’s a lot that we can’t do.” NBLSA has a long list of distinguished alumni, including Harvard professor Charles Ogletree, a former national president of the organization. Regional conventions start in late January. Every fall, NBLSA also sponsors 1L academic retreats — one in each of six regions across the country, typically held at a participating law school — where students learn study skills, sit in on a mock class and familiarize themselves with the Socratic method, learn how to break down a case, learn how to write an outline, and master other skills that will help them as law students. The 2002 National Convention is March 13-17 in Detroit, and all NBLSA members are invited. NBLSA membership is open to all black law students. Membership fees are determined by local chapters and vary widely. For information: www.nblsa.org. NATIONAL ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN LAW STUDENT ASSOCIATION With chapters at more than 100 law schools and approximately 4,000 members, the 20-year-old National Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (NAPALSA) exists to raise awareness about such issues as Asian-Americans running for political office or racial profiling and to raise visibility within the legal community. In addition, NAPALSA provides students with mentors, organizes community service work and helps students network with practicing lawyers. As a service organization, NAPALSA’s work varies from chapter to chapter. One chapter participates in Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, going to the homes of people who don’t speak English as a first language to help them fill out their tax forms. Many chapters are also involved with Habitat for Humanity and with organizations such as Project Angelheart, an AIDS charity. NAPALSA also coordinates mentorship programs for students. After NAPALSA determines a law student’s interests, it tries to match that student up with a lawyer in the same field. Mentor lawyers decide what information the students need, introduce them to people in that area of the law, and advise them on what courses to take. “We have a training program for the mentors so they know what kind of information to pass onto the students, so basically all a student has to do is show up,” says NAPALSA President Boedl Lee. “And of course free lunches are involved.” NAPALSA’s national conference is timed to coincide with an annual moot court competition and typically features a prominent speaker. At last year’s conference in Washington, D.C., Janet Reno spoke about the case of Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwanese-born American nuclear scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who was accused of leaking nuclear secrets to China. (That charge was dropped; the federal judge said the government’s case “embarrassed our entire nation,” and Lee pleaded guilty to downloading sensitive data.) The next NAPALSA conference will be held next fall at a location not yet determined; a chapter conference will be held at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government March 1 and 2. Students can register for Harvard’s APALSA (the acronym for the local chapter) conference at www.apalsa.org and can sign up for NAPALSA and find out about the national conference at www.napalsa.org. NATIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN LAW STUDENTS ASSOCIATION Native Americans represent just 1 percent of the U.S. population, and an even smaller percentage of the law student population. Given that, the National Native American Law Students Association (NNALSA) has a strong student organization with 40 chapters across the country. NNALSA was founded in 1970 to promote unity and cooperation among Native-American law students, to help Native Americans advance in the field of the law, and to promote scholarship in Native American legal issues. While anyone who’s interested can join NNALSA, “Typically, this means Native American law students,” says Katosha Belvin Nakai, public relations director for NNALSA. “But many of our associate and alumni members are non-Native students who are or plan to practice in either federal Indian law or tribal law/government.” Among other programs, NNALSA organizes pre-law summer institute scholarships, holds a yearly writing competition, hosts an annual moot court competition, manages an e-mail list for Native American law students, and provides opportunities for networking and job searching. It also sponsors scholarships for students who want to practice in Native American communities. The Spring Meeting of Board Members will be held at Arizona State University College of Law March 7-9 and is open to everyone, although only NNALSA members are eligible to compete in the writing and moot court competitions. The Annual General Membership Meeting will be held the first week in April in conjunction with the federal Bar Association’s Annual Indian Law Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. To register, visit the NNALSA Web site at www.utulsa.edu/law/indianlaw/nalsa/. Anyone attending an ABA-accredited law school can join NNALSA by downloading a membership application and paying the $10 dues. NATIONAL LESBIAN AND GAY LAW ASSOCIATION LAW STUDENT DIVISION Founded just after the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association began in 1988, National Lesbian and Gay Law Association Law Student Division (NLGLA/LSD) has a mission consonant with its parent group: to use the law to promote social justice. The student wing is involved in many of the NLGLA’s most prominent activities. Students are involved in planning and holding the annual Lavender Law Conference, in which civil rights attorneys, professors, policy makers and other advocates gather to discuss legal issues involving the gay community. Law students help write amicus briefs in cases involving gay issues, and NLGLA recently submitted an amicus to the Supreme Court in Dale v. Boy Scouts of America. Students also assist in ongoing projects like advocating within the American Bar Association and identifying a national database of gay-friendly judges. The NLGLA/LSD also works at law schools to promote the rights of gay and transgender law students and make their lives easier. It helps create new student organizations; organizes Lavender Law discussion panels on topics such as AIDS law, civil rights, criminal law, employment law and transgender law; advises gay students about which law schools are friendliest; coaches them on how to navigate law school; and advises them on which firms are most gay-friendly and have same-sex domestic partner benefits. The group is also politically active and campaigned recently against the Solomon Amendments, which called for military recruiting on law school campuses under penalty of loss of federal funding. Membership is steadily climbing as the social climate toward gay students changes, and more and more law students are coming out and getting involved in the organization. As Kara Suffredini, chair of the Committee on Law Student Issues, puts it, “Given that homosexual sodomy was once illegal in over half the states, that it was once punishable in Georgia by as many as 20 years in prison and disbarment, and that this punishment remains sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court, I would suggest that the creation, existence, growth and influence of our organization is, in and of itself, a success story.” The next Lavender Law Conference will be held in Philadelphia next October. Register through the NLGLA Web site: www.nlgla.org. Law student registration includes a one-year free membership. The site also offers law students the opportunity to join the organization and provides information about local chapters. HISPANIC NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION The Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) sponsors a law student division whose mission is to increase Hispanic representation in law schools. The group aims to increase Hispanic recruitment and retention in law schools and to provide them with financial aid. To boost enrollment, the group awards thousands of dollars to deserving Hispanic law students through the National Bar Fund. The group has also proposed that law school admission committees study factors leading to the decline in minority law students and minorities passing the bar. The parent organization has also been very successful, and membership is at an all-time high. The primary objective of the HNBA is to increase professional opportunities for Hispanics, but the organization also meets with President Bush and members of his administration, confers with leaders of Spanish-speaking countries, and testifies before Congress on issues such as immigration reform and the Census. The HBNA weighs in on U.S. Supreme Court nominees and lobbies for Hispanic judicial appointments at lower levels of the judiciary. The group promotes legal education and civil rights, lobbies for political representation, encourages Fortune 500 companies to hire Hispanic attorneys and publishes a national directory of Hispanic attorneys. Founded in 1972 in California as the La Raza National Lawyers Association, the HNBA now represents more than 25,000 legal professionals and students in the United States and Puerto Rico. The Hispanic National Bar Association is open to all Hispanic law students, and student members are entitled to all the benefits of lawyer members. Members are invited to join committees that correspond with their particular area of law. Membership is open not only to individuals, but local Hispanic Bar associations are also encouraged to become affiliated with the HNBA. The HNBA collaborates with the local Hispanic Bar in more than 100 cities across the United States. The HNBA 2002 Moot Court Competition will be held in Chicago in March, and organizers are expecting 36 teams of four students each. The Second Annual Hispanic Technology Summit will be held in Miami in July 2002. The 27th Annual HNBA Convention will be held in Atlanta in October 2002, featuring seminars focused on the needs of Hispanic law students, as well as a job fair. Students can register for the conferences or join the organization at www.hnba.com. NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR PUBLIC INTEREST LAW These days it’s hard to find anyone who’s graduated from law school with less than $50,000 or $100,000 in debt. That’s a pretty hefty burden to bear if you’re thinking of going into public interest law, and for a lot of students, it’s the debt load that lures them to jobs at firms. Dedicated to surmounting barriers to equal justice that affect low-income people, the National Association for Public Interest Law (NAPIL) creates programs to help public interest lawyers repay their loans with its National Service program. Working with public service organizations like AmeriCorps, NAPIL creates summer and postgraduate public-interest jobs. By organizing, training and supporting public service-minded law students, NAPIL hopes to prepare lawyers to recognize iniquities in the legal system and to develop a lifelong commitment to using their skills in the interest of developing a more just society. NAPIL represents law students, lawyers, law professors and others committed to public interest. Next October, NAPIL will have its career fair and conference in Washington, D.C. In addition, NAPIL hosts an annual leadership retreat for all law students interested in bettering their organizations and continuing their student activism. “NAPIL has a great track record,” says Lisa Taylor, a NAPIL board member. “We have over 144 NAPIL fellows in the field working in underserved communities, student leaders at 160 law schools advancing the cause for social justice, and 200 employers at our career fair ensuring that law students have employment opportunities in a very competitive job market.” Law students can get involved by signing up online or talking to their local NAPIL chapter, which they can locate at www.napil.org. Student officers representing different regions of the country are listed on the site.

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