April 14, 2014 | Volume XXI, Issue 14

UF Law Student Christopher O’Neal Heads National Black Law Students Association

Published: April 14th, 2003

Category: News

Honors — and responsibilities — are piling up for second-year UF law student Christopher O’Neal. He was just appointed executive director of the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) — the first UF student in that role — after serving as special assistant to its board in 2002-03. He also was just elected president of BLSA’s local chapter, and plans to volunteer at the regional level. “BLSA represents students of color in ABA-accredited law schools across the nation, including Harvard, Yale and Stanford,” O’Neal said. “The appointment of a UF student to the national board will bring even more prominence to UF.” O’Neal noted that the UF College of Law has been very supportive of his BLSA activities. “I think of students as customers,” he said. “And our administrators — from the top down — work hard to achieve a high level of customer satisfaction.” BLSA offers students a number of opportunities to voice their concerns. NBLSA students contributed an amicus brief on the Grutter case — which involved affirmative action at the University of Michigan — and held demonstrations outside the U.S. Supreme Court in support of school diversity. Four participants were from UF: Venessa Gordon (3L), Alero Afejuku (3L), Daria Dawson (3L) and Kasmyene Hayes (3L). In April 2003, O’Neal was awarded the Clifford W. Crandall Memorial Scholarship, and in March he was voted BLSA’s Male Student of the Year during its annual alumni reunion. “It was a tremendous honor to be recognized by my peers,” said O’Neal. In February 2003, he was selected for the law school’s formidable Trial Team, which recently placed second in national competition. “I am looking forward to working with and learning from some of this country’s best litigating minds,” O’Neal said. A former policeman with more than eight years’ experience, O’Neal came to UF’s law school in Spring 2002. He still occasionally takes assignments for the Gainesville Police Department, and recently helped arrange a sting operation — on a volunteer basis — to help a fellow law student who was being repeatedly robbed at his home. O’Neal enjoys criminal law, but is uncertain which legal area he would like to specialize in. He interned for the Commercial Litigation Section of the National Bar Association, which represents more than 20,000 African-American lawyers, judges, educators and law students. “I enjoy public service, which is why I stayed in police work for so long,” O’Neal said. “If I’d given up the uniform, someone else would have taken it — maybe someone who didn’t care as much about people.”

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