Three law students elected to regional chapter of National Black Law Students Association executive board

Jacklyn Pellegrino, Copy Editor

Three Quinnipiac University law school students were elected to the executive board of the National Black Law Student’s Northeastern Black Law Students Association regional chapter on Feb. 26.

Quinnipiac law students Nataly Brown, Fontaine Chambers and Gabrielle Petrie represent the NBLSA’s values. According to NBLSA’s website, the organization’s mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black and minority attorneys who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.”

Brown, a second-year law student and NEBLSA treasurer, said she always knew she wanted to be a lawyer, but went to school for business because she knew law school was a big financial commitment.

“I love the business field but I realized I still wanted to be a lawyer, to do the law side of business, so to kind of put my two loves together, of business and law,” Brown said.

One of Brown’s mentors, Ashlica Malcolm, told her about NEBLSA and soon after she joined for an appointed position as parliamentarian. Brown said NEBLSA nominated her for treasurer this year because of her financial background and prior experience.

Gabrielle Petrie (left), Nataly Brown (center) and Fontaine Chambers (right) will work to increase the representation of minorities in law during their respective tenures in the Northeastern Black Law Students Association. (Photo contributed by Fontaine Chambers/ Autumn Driscoll/Quinnipiac University )

“I knew I really wanted to be involved and help NEBLSA as much as possible to keep being efficient and keep being effective,” Brown said. “When you’re treasurer, everyone’s giving you their budgets for club ideas and you’re a part of each different event that each club wants to be, and you’re just helping them plan it efficiently and most effectively and cost effectively in the sense.”

The organization’s 54th regional convention was held between Feb. 23-27 at Foxwoods Resort Casino. There was a moot court competition, a mock trial competition and various networking opportunities, according to NEBLSA’s website.

Brown was at the NEBLSA convention because of her previous role as parliamentarian where she had to make sure all the rules and regulations were being followed. She said that her chair nominated her for treasurer and after she accepted, she had to resign from parliamentarian because it was a “conflict of interest.”

Petrie, a second-year law student and NEBLSA Connecticut sub-regional director, said she has always been surrounded by individuals who want to help other people because most of her family works in the medical field. She said she would debate with her father growing up so she was interested in political science and from there she became interested in law.

When Petrie joined NEBLSA she was elected as director of pre-law division during her first year of law school and she began the position in her second year. Later, she was nominated for the Connecticut sub-Regional director position, which she holds currently.

“I’ve been in Connecticut for six years now, I did undergrad in Connecticut,” Petrie said. “I really have a lot of roots and a lot of connections in CT, so I thought this position specifically would be a great opportunity for me and I think I would really handle the job quite well.”

Petrie said that some of her goals are focused in the area of mental health, especially for law students since the pandemic. She said she wants to provide more resources to help people get their foot in the door and make connections with different organizations such as the George W. Crawford Black Bar Association in Connecticut.

Chambers, a second-year law student and NEBLSA vice chair, said she knew she wanted to be a lawyer since she was 11 years old. Despite having no lawyers in her family and not knowing any in the field, Chambers said it was something she wanted to do.

“I knew that advocacy was something that I was really passionate about, especially advocating for disenfranchised voices and communities and groups,” Chambers said.

Chambers said she joined NEBLSA in the spring semester of her first year at Quinnipiac because it was a “fairly challenging” year and she was looking for a sense of community outside of Quinnipiac.

“Especially going to a predominantly white institution, you don’t see too many individuals that look like you, as well as Black attorneys make up 5% and black female attorneys make up around 2%,” Chambers said. “So the mission of NBLSA and NEBLSA, which is an affiliate of NBLSA, is all about increasing the 5% as well as ensuring that Black students exceed professionally, academically, as well as holistically.”

The vice chair said she chose the role because it’s a very “supportive role.”

“We manage a large board, we are a large region, and a lot of that is ensuring that the regional and national goals flow throughout the entire board and ensuring that we know we maintain that camaraderie as a board as well as ensuring that my board members feel supported and that the chapter members will support it and really ensuring that we are maintaining the values of NEBLSA and NBLSA,” Chambers said.

Chambers thought she was going into the vice chair role uncontested but when she arrived at the convention she found out someone was running against her. During the opponent’s speech she said that even though she was qualified for the role she loved Chambers so much that she rescinded her candidacy because she wanted Chambers to be vice chair. Chambers said that there were “a lot of tears in the room” and “it was an emotional process and I cried a lot.”

“But I think it just spoke volumes that my so-called opponent who is really like a sister in law, in law school, had so much faith in me, and really wanted to see me in the role that she didn’t want to interfere with that and I have the utmost respect and gratitude for her,” Chambers said.

Chambers said she spoke with several previous vice chairs and chairs to ensure she knew what was expected of her in the role of vice chair.

“I believe that if you don’t have fear or hesitation going into the role, that’s not a role meant for you,” Chambers said.

Chambers said one of her goals is to create a sense of community through in-person events and show camaraderie is present through the term. She said she is also passionate about mental health and wants to push more initiatives to ensure students become a “holistic lawyer.”

“But there also is that family bond that NEBLSA and NBLSA create, it’s hard to operate in spaces where you are the only one,” Chambers said. “So being in these types of organizations allows you to really flourish and be your authentic self.”