Hannah Goodridge and Lynn Momprevil are second-year law students and co-presidents of UBC Black Law Students' Association (BLSA). This week, they’re gearing up for two big events. The annual BLSA Canada Conference kicks off on Friday, running from February 17-20 in Vancouver. The second Black Pre-Law Conference, co-hosted by the UBC BLSA and Allard Law, takes place on Saturday, March 12.
In addition to organizing networking, recruitment and professional opportunities, UBC BLSA is highly active in advocacy work aimed at addressing anti-Black and systemic racism at the law school and in the justice system – all while navigating life as law students.
We spoke with Hannah and Lynn to learn more about their experiences as co-presidents of UBC BLSA and about upcoming opportunities for Black law students, practicing lawyers, and individuals who are thinking about law school.
On March 12, UBC BLSA is co-hosting the Black Pre-Law Conference. Can you tell us about the event and what prospective Black law students can expect?
Lynn: This is our second year doing this event. It’s an opportunity for Black undergraduates, high school students, or anyone else who's interested in law school to hear from us and get a sense of what it's like to be Black at law school. It’s a chance for students to get to know us, and get a feel for what we’re experiencing.
We'll have Professor Harris come and do a mock lecture and we’re going to have a Q&A panel with practicing lawyers, so that'll give students the opportunity to see what kinds of law careers are out there. Hopefully, we'll have an in-person reception afterwards for people who are in Vancouver to mingle and get to know each other.
Hannah: I'm also looking forward to giving Black prospective law students the opportunity to connect with Black law students and Black lawyers. I know that when I was thinking about going to law school, I didn't have any family members in the profession or connections in that respect.
I went to a BLSA panel before I started at UBC, and one thing I especially remember was when the panelists expressed that for those without connections, they would be our connections to the profession. I'm excited to provide that kind of opportunity for students – to give them mentors they can reach out to.
At the conference this year, we’ve also lined up the Honorable David St. Pierre as our keynote speaker. I'm excited for students to hear his story. He's someone we can all look up to!
Your term as co-presidents of UBC BLSA began last spring. Looking back, what have your experiences in this role been like so far?
Hannah: We’re co-presidents of the biggest cohort of Black law students at Allard ever, which is very exciting. One thing we started out with in September was just really wanting to set the tone for the year around goals of community building and advocacy. So we've had socials where we've been able to get together, in addition to advocacy work like admissions sessions for Black applicants, giving these students the opportunity to hear from Allard Law admissions staff, as well as a “Why Law?” panel where we had Black lawyers join us for a Q&A session.
Lynn: This year one of the best parts of being a co-president is, as Hannah said, being the biggest cohort. Last year we spent a lot of time on advocacy, which we still do now, but it was a lot of focus on recruitment. Now we get to reap the fruits that we sowed. It’s so exciting to be able to have these social events with other Black law students.
We’re at the point where we feel like a community who can just reach out to each other and hang out – not just at law school. To me that's been really exciting – to just have that comfort and know that we have each other.
What would you like to see the law school do to make Black students feel more welcome and better supported?
Lynn: The summer before Hannah and I came to law school, the summer of 2020, there was a lot of momentum with the Black Lives Matter movement. The law school became a lot more receptive to hearing ideas from Black students because of social pressure. I think what's important is that when the social pressure fades, the law school doesn't stop listening and acknowledging the things that we're going through.
What's important is having more than just symbolic acts – ”okay this is great, we've accepted this many Black students and now we're over it” – that sort of thing. It’s important to continue to work with students, but I’d like to see the law school hire more people to work on this, so students don’t have to spend so much of their time on it.
Hannah: I would second what Lynn has said and add transparency and making information as easy to access as possible. There was a new scholarship that was created for Black incoming students, and disseminating that kind of information and making it very easy to access is important.
In addition to the Black Pre-Law Conference coming up later month, UBC is the host school for the annual BLSA Canada Conference, taking place February 17-20. What are you looking forward to most about this conference?
Hannah: This conference is really exciting because Black law students from all across Canada will get together, in person and online.
The theme for the conference is “in excellence we stand, in power we rise.” This represents a great opportunity to come together to build community and connect within a larger framework of Black law students and Black lawyers.
Lynn: I’m excited to be surrounded by other Black law students. Last year, Hannah and I were the only two Black law students in our 1L year, so it's definitely nice to feel surrounded by people who look like you and to share experiences that we all have in common.
What’s been a highlight for you at law school so far?
Lynn: I'm also VP, Student Affairs of the Law Student Society, so a highlight for me has been getting to know so many students and throwing events. I think after being online last year, everyone is excited about getting together in person. It's always fun just how people come up to me in the halls and they're like, “We can't wait for this event!” and to see these things come to fruition.
And last year when we did our first Black Pre-Law Conference, that was a big highlight. We were just so happy it went so well. We saw all our hard work come to life.
Hannah: Last year's Black Pre-Law Conference was such a highlight of first year – seeing all the students come out and be so engaged and ask so many questions. And at the end of the conference, we told students that if they wanted, they could stay on the call and just ask us questions. We had students stay on for probably 45 minutes after the conference ended to hear about our experiences. It was great to feel as though we were making an impact on the upcoming generation of law students.