Mercer University’s Pre-Law Black Law Students Association (BLSA) has started the school year with a number of outreach events around the Macon campus.
Its members have volunteered for Be a Good Neighbear, hosted pop-up tables around the Connell Student Center, and had a Z Beans profit share in addition to their club meetings.
“We’re an organization on the rise,” said Pre-Law BLSA President Carmen Benjamin, a sophomore majoring in law and public policy. “Being a lawyer is more than just paperwork or writing or reading. It’s social skills; it’s understanding to be able to connect with other people,” she said.
Mercer’s Pre-Law BLSA began during the 2021-22 school year. Now, it has around 25 members.
As president, Benjamin oversees and administers tasks, is the spokesperson for the organization, and maintains connections with the Mercer Law School BLSA. She also ensures that Mercer’s chapter of Pre-Law BLSA abides by the national mission statement and standards.
Sophomore Ryan Smith, vice president and social media chair of Pre-law BLSA, is working to get the organization better connected to the Mercer and Macon communities.
“We’re really honing in on involvement on campus and just trying to let people know that we do exist,” she said. “And we also just want to make sure people know about the resources that we want to provide to everyone.”
One of the resources Smith said the group is working on is an LSAT library where students can rent books that previous members and alumni have used to help prepare for the law school aptitude test.
Benjamin and Smith also talked about the importance of increasing the Black community’s representation in the field of law through Pre-Law BLSA.
According to the American Bar Association, 5% of all lawyers are African American, which is significantly lower than the overall population.
“One thing that we really want to do for all the Black students at Mercer is to find a way for them to find other people that they can see themselves in,” Smith said. “So a big part of the Pre-Law Black Law Students Association is just having a space where we can sit and talk to each other about things we might not be able to say in different organizations because of this shared sense of community that we all have.
With representation comes understanding, Benjamin said.
“When it comes to Black people, we’re more likely to be criminalized than some other races sometimes,” she said. “So it helps to have Black people fight on our behalf.”
Both Benjamin and Smith connected with Pre-Law BLSA during their freshman year at Mercer. Benjamin first came to the club through her mentor, and Smith applied for leadership positions after the former club president reached out to her last year.
In high school, Benjamin interned for the State Court judge of Gwinnett County. This summer, she had an internship in Gwinnett County’s Probate Court.
The experience solidified her desire to become a lawyer because the attorneys she worked with were changing people’s lives. She hopes to practice health law in the future.
“It is fulfilling to me to seek to help people in that way and to become more than an attorney,” she said.
Smith, who wants to pursue either public defense or entertainment law, has goals of growing Pre-Law BLSA’s membership, events and resources.
She said the meetings are focused on helping members to learn about law and see if it’s a field they want to pursue. At the club’s next meeting on Nov. 7, Smith said they’ll be talking about degree options in law school.
For those interested in attending a meeting or joining Pre-Law BLSA, Benjamin advises reaching out on campus or to follow the group’s Instagram account @mercerprelawblsa. In the Instagram bio, there’s a link to the club’s GroupMe and membership interest form.