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Q&A with a UT Law Student

Mecca ShabazzMecca Shabazz is a second-year student at UT Law. She is from Nashville and as an undergraduate, she studied psychology and African American and diaspora studies at Vanderbilt University. In addition to being the president of the Marilyn Yarbrough chapter of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA), Mecca is involved with Law Women and has recently joined both the Native American Law Student Association (NALSA) and the National Lawyers Guild (NLG).

What is Black Law Student Association?

“BLSA is an organization that aims at being a support system for law students. We function through hosting various programs, [focusing on] mentoring, and helping our local community. We have programs like our back to school barbeque, Street Law for high school outreach, and 1L how-to sessions where we go over things like academic sources and how to write case briefs. Having connections and being able to see and meet black attorneys and having that representation is very valuable, especially as a first year. The connections helped me get through my first year emotionally and professionally, and it is where I met my best friends.”

What would you tell a person applying to law school, especially a person of color?

“One thing that I did is follow a lot of social media accounts and reach out to different BLSA chapters. Don’t be scared to reach out to students at law schools, either. Tours are also great, especially when you can sit in on a class. Not only can you get a better understanding of the setting, but it’s also good to see if the campus is diverse, if people look like you. That kind of research and getting a personal perspective can help you make a more informed decision as you apply.”

What has your experience been with diversity in law school?

“It can be really hard to come into law school and realize, wow, okay, there is only like 10 black students here. That is something I had never experienced before, and most of my peers can say the same, but at least now we are starting to see a push in the right direction for plans with both recruitment and retention. Law schools ought to be looking not only for diverse students, but also looking for ways to make these students feel included. BLSA has been involved in different initiatives and programs with our administration and our Student Bar Association… like our dean’s book club where we come together and have a productive discussion about material we have watched or read that deals with racial, legal, and social issues. We are at a critical point, and UT law school is at a good starting point for some really good and needed change.”

Going into law school, should you know exactly what kind of law you want to do?

“With my experience with the University of Tennessee, it’s good to have a broad idea…but it is not required. My first year I took a class where they bring in different alumni who work in a variety of areas, and a lot of them will tell you they came in wanting to do something different and then found an area they love a lot more. Coming into law school being opened minded is good, too.”