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Chestnut to Chair National Black Law Students Association

Published: April 5th, 2004

Category: News Briefs

Christopher M. Chestnut (2L, at right) has been elected chair of the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA). Chestnut will be the first student from Florida — and, it is believed, the entire southeast — to head the organization.

“BLSA chairs historically come from institutions such as Harvard or Yale, so this is a real honor,” said Chestnut.

“We are very proud of Chris,” said UF College of Law Dean Robert Jerry. “He is an outstanding example of the influence our students — through their talent, hard work and dedication — can wield even before graduation.”

NBLSA articulates and promotes the professional needs and goals of Black law students; fosters professional competence; focuses on the relationship of the Black attorney to the American legal system; instills in the Black attorney and law student a greater awareness of and commitment to the needs of the Black community; and utilizes their expertise to initiate change within the legal system to make it more responsive to needs and concerns of the Black community. Chestnut and other members of UF’s W. George Allen Chapter of BLSA attended the national BLSA conference in Boston last month to compete in the mock trial competition. He also decided to run for national office.

“I choreographed everything in Boston,” Chestnut said, recalling an all-night marathon at Kinkos putting together a brochure to promote his election.

Chestnut is no stranger to high ranking student office. He was president of his class as an undergraduate at Florida State University and is in College Leadership Florida. He has volunteered with numerous organizations for a diverse range of causes ranging from political activism to Big Brothers & Big Sisters. He also has been a law clerk for Willie Gary, senior partner in Gary, Williams, Parent, Finney, Lewis, McManus, Watson & Sperando LLP; an intern with Congresswoman Corrine Brown for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in Washington, D.C., and a political consultant with the lobbying firm Public Private Partnership. His extracurricular activities include involvement in BLSA, National Bar Association, NAACP Legal Defense Fund Scholar, American Bar Association, John Marshall Bar Association, Association of Trial Lawyers of America (president), Law College Council (executive board) and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

In Boston, because he also was competing in the mock trial competition, Chestnut had limited time to campaign, and relied on a speech and Q&A with the membership to communicate his vision for the organization, which includes initiatives for election protection, putting law outlines online, expanding study abroad opportunities and increasing corporate sponsorships.

“I want to see more diversity of thought in the organization,” Chestnut said. “I’m excited about taking the organization in new directions.”

As chair, Chestnut will act as national BLSA spokesperson, oversee committees, serve on the board of the National Bar Association and the American Bar Association, among others, and head fund-raising efforts. Although he doesn’t officially become chair until the end of April, Chestnut has already begun building alliances by traveling to Washington, D.C. to meet with Congressional representatives.

“The more I become immersed in it, the more I realize this is a very influential and encompassing position,” Chestnut said.

Chestnut praised the UF College of Law administration for supporting him in his new position. As he travels across the country and meets with professionals and students, Chestnut keeps in mind his multiple allegiances.

“I always introduce myself as a 2L from UF,” he said with a smile.

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