Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Alumna Justice Rita Maxwell presenting in front of group of black students

Alumna Justice Rita Maxwell was the keynote speaker at the Faculty of Law's first and annual Black Future Lawyers Conference

 

By Lucianna Ciccocioppo / Photos by Jerome Poon-Ting

More than 75 Black undergraduate students attended the Faculty of Law’s inaugural “Black Future Lawyers Conference” on March 2nd, which featured alumna Justice Rita Maxwell, JD 2001, of the Ontario Court of Justice, as the keynote speaker. She spoke about law as a pathway to leadership. The conference received much positive feedback and will be an annual event at the Faculty of Law.

University students from across Ontario were invited to participate in the conference, and some came from as far away as Montreal. This event is part of a suite of initiatives at the Faculty of Law to encourage students, at the high school and post-secondary levels, to actively think about applying to law school and learn about career options a law degree can provide. Recently, the Faculty of Law held its “See Yourself Here” event, and the Faculty of Law is a co-partner in the award-winning Law in Action Within Schools program, LAWS.

Audienc shot of attendees

Before this conference, I felt that getting into law school and ending up with a good job was next to impossible. But when I left, I felt more confident that as long as I put in the work, and get myself out there, I can achieve it.

Alumni and other lawyers on the panel

 

The conference, organized by the Faculty of Law’s student admissions team in partnership with the Black Law Students Association, featured informal discussions, together with lecture and panel presentations to encourage Black post-secondary students to consider careers in law and the legal profession, while offering information how to navigate the application process.

Overall, I think this event was great. From knowledge to a sense of empowerment, the content provided by this event was extremely valuable and I feel immensely grateful to have attended. I hope this event will continue on for future generations of young Black future lawyers, as this type of engagement is really what our community needs.

Students lunching with alumni

 

“The U of T Faculty of Law believes that legal education should be accessible to talented students from all segments of Canadian society,” says Alexis Archbold, assistant dean of the JD program, "and that law schools themselves have an important role in proactively supporting students to gain admission to law school. Our vision is a legal profession that reflects the diversity of the community that lawyers serve.”

Prior to this event, I was afraid as a Black lawyer I would encounter barriers due to my race that would hinder my ultimate success and prosperity. The success of the lawyers at this event demonstrated that this was just a myth, and that we are able to surpass the barriers that have been put in place to confine us to spaces of oppression and marginalization.

Black law students at the podium

 

“The goal of our first annual Black Future Lawyers Conference was to provide participants with information and different viewpoints to help them make an informed decision about being a lawyer, how to get into law school, and how to thrive when they are there,” says Archbold. “This law school was thrilled to partner with the Black Law Students Association, and many of our alumni, to offer the first of several initiatives designed to support Black undergraduate students who want to become lawyers.”

This conference was a great opportunity to not only gain valuable information, but to also insert myself into an amazing network full of people like me, who have incredible experiences that I can learn from.

close up of audience laughing and smiling during a conference break