UF Students Hold Key Positions in NBLSA
Chris Chestnut (3L) is set to end his term as Chairman of the National Black Law Students Association — but UF’s Camille Warren (1L) takes on another powerful position in the organization
African-American law students from around the country gathered in Denver, Colo. during the last weekend in March for the annual convention of the National Black Law Students Association, or NBLSA.
But while the event was held in the Rockies, much of the planning for it was done right here in Gainesville — by the UF law student who serves as head of the organization.
“I’ve had a busy year, and planning this convention was a large part of that,” said Chris Chestnut (3L), chairman of NBLSA.
Chestnut was elected to head the organization at last year’s convention. He is the first student from Florida to be elected head of NBLSA, an organization dedicated to articulating and promoting the needs of black law students.
Since Chestnut took the reins, membership in NBLSA has grown by 33 percent, and participation in the organization’s trial competitions has increased by 50 percent.
Chestnut says the boom in membership is due in large part to the intense travel schedule that he and other NBLSA leaders maintained over the last 12 months.
“I’ve talked to people at law schools all over the country in the past year,” Chestnut said.
A growing Web presence also helped. Chestnut says a recently-created blog has boosted visits to the BLSA website, which now gets around 10,000 hits per month.
Chestnut’s term ends in May, but another UF student is set to take up an important position in the organization. Camille Warren (1L) was elected NBLSA treasurer at the Denver convention.
Warren, who worked as a financial analyst before coming to law school, said she plans to restructure the organization’s finances. She wants to split NBLSA into two entities, a 501(c)3 agency and a for-profit group. She said the move would allow the organization to wield more political influence.
“As a 501(c)3, we aren’t allowed to lobby Congress on issues like police brutality, the death penalty and mandatory sentencing — things that are important to our members,” Warren said.
Chestnut said the whole law school profits from UF’s prominent role in NBLSA.
“It increases the university’s notoriety,” he said.“Everywhere I go, I tell people I’m from the University of Florida. That can be a real rainmaker for UF.”