Elon student wins leadership role in National Black Law Students Association

James Williams L’24 is the first Elon Law student ever elected to the national board of directors for an influential organization that promotes the educational, professional, political, and social goals of Black law students.

Encouragement from mentors and a desire to help grow the number of attorneys from historically excluded groups helped an Elon Law student secure a leadership role this spring with the National Black Law Students Association.

James Williams L’24 was elected in March to serve as a member-at-large on the national board of directors for an organization that promotes the educational, professional, political, and social needs and goals of Black law students across the United States.

Williams is the first student from Elon Law elected to a leadership role in the NBLSA. His term started April 1, 2024, after attending NBLSA’s 2024 national convention in Houston alongside Ty Wester L’24, treasurer of Elon Law’s Black Law Students Association.

During the March convention, Williams campaigned among hundreds of attendees with two goals in mind:

  • Connect with other law schools that have Black Law Student Associations but are considered “inactive” on the rolls of the NLBSA
  • Seek new philanthropic partnerships and opportunities to support campus chapters in states where funding may be reduced, if not eliminated, in the current political climate

“Only 5% of attorneys in the United States are African-American,” Williams said. “That’s not representative of our figure – we’re 13% Black. The best way to fix that is to create more attorneys who are people of color. That was the main thing calling me to serve.”

Williams grew up in Atlanta before attending Coastal Carolina University to study political science. The first-generation law student was inspired to attend law school after an undergraduate study abroad program in the Republic of Georgia. He’s quick to note that his late grandfather wanted to study law but was denied opportunities in the era of Jim Crow.

“I want to help people,” Williams said. “Being a lawyer doesn’t last forever, so if you can help others, your impact will far outlast your legal career.”

Williams described Elon Law Associate Dean Wendy Scott, advisor to Elon Law’s Black Law Students Association, as “instrumental” to his interest in joining the national organization. He also credited Gerald L. Walden, Jr., general counsel of The Fresh Market and president of the Greensboro Bar Association, for encouragement to pursue leadership opportunities.

“As a law student I had the privilege of serving on the NBLSA executive board,” Scott said of Williams. “Since joining the Elon Law community, one of my goals has been to have our chapter more involved in the national association. I was thrilled to learn of James’s election.”

Walden supervised Williams during a recent Elon Law residency-in-practice at The Fresh Market. Walden, who serves on the Elon University School of Law Board of Advisors, also praised his protégé’s commitment to excellence.

“During his residency, there was noticeable growth in his confidence, exemplified by his decision to run for and be elected to the NBLSA board of directors,” Walden said. “James expressed that his time under my guidance played a pivotal role in motivating him to pursue this opportunity, for which I am deeply honored.”