UA Law graduates discuss affecting change in legal fieldBy Jennifer Johns | 02/21/2018 12:30pm
On Tuesday, UA Law graduates spoke about the positive impact their experiences at UA’s Black Law Student Association (BLSA) had on them at law school and their current occupations during Legally Black: African American Millennials Make a Difference in the Legal and Greater Community.
The three graduates spoke to a crowd of about 35 people about the importance of networking and how affecting change can stem from their actions every day.
Queena Ruffin, an assistant district attorney in Mobile, said UA Law was a welcoming experience where she felt at home.
“There was never a time where I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be here,” she said.
Jerome Dees, assistant district attorney for Jefferson County, said BLSA students became his family. Dees said he still keeps in constant contact with those he met in law school.
“One way to perfect that is to network and be kind to everyone,” Dees said. “Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but there is a benefit to that as well.”
TaRonda Randall, assistant director of compliance at Florida State University, said the depth in her relationships, and being intentional in those relationships was something she wished she had realized at the beginning of law school.
“Quality over quantity is key,” Randall said.
She also said she wouldn’t be who she is today without the BLSA.
“I didn’t realize how much fun I was having while I was having it,” she said.
Ruffin said she wished she had known that no one has all the answers, and that it’s okay not to know the right answer all the time.
“There are things I don’t know, but there is someone I know that has the answer,” she said.
Ruffin was asked about her choice to become a prosecutor and how the current events of a flawed criminal justice system plays into that.
“The unique thing about my job is I have to do the right thing everyday,” Ruffin said. “I always seek justice even when it's not the popular thing to do.”
Dees said the flawed system is why he also wanted to be a prosecutor.
“Birmingham’s population is 70% black, but there are only 4 black prosecutors,” Dees said. “You need people of color on the other side, or else who can relate?”
The speakers explained how they have affected change in their field.
Randall said she sees athletics as a vehicle of change. She said though some students only come to college for sports, it can “set a new expectation for the rest of their families.” She said installing that mentality of education can change the trajectory of not one life but the lives of an entire family.
Ruffin said making a difference is the driving force in her life. As a juvenile prosecutor, she worked at affecting change predominantly with juveniles of color.
“Children have never seen someone who looks like them do something positive in this office,” Ruffin said. “To give these children an opportunity to know they can do something out of their norm, makes a difference.”
Dees said his work is directly involved in the community. He recalled an occasion when a bailiff in Shelby County assumed he wasn’t an attorney presumably because he was African American, but now they’ve become close.
“Nine times out of ten, I’m the only attorney of color,” Dees said. “I’m able to present that, yes, there are black attorneys out there.”
Daiquiri Steele, director of diversity and inclusion and assistant professor at the University, said she was pleased with the turnout for the event.
“When we celebrate African American History Month, it’s important we celebrate the contributions of African Americans in all arenas and professions including the legal profession,” she said.