Feb. 7, 2022
UCalgary alumna hopes to inspire other Black females to pursue a law career
According to a 2020 Vault/MCAA law firm diversity survey, just 9.4 per cent of all law firm attorneys are women of colour, and Black lawyers make up 3.7 per cent of all attorneys. The survey also found both demographics are significantly underrepresented at the partnership and leadership levels.
University of Calgary alumna Storme Mckop, BA’16, JD’19, wants to see those numbers increase.
After spending a year working with a law firm in Calgary, Mckop moved to New York, where she works for the tech group at Lowenstein Sandler LLP.
Mckop says she enjoys working in the tech industry because it is more diverse than other industries. “I love the fact that my clients are not all from the same demographic,” says Mckop, who deals with people of all races, genders and ages in her work.
Mckop says she was questioned about her choice of corporate law over criminal law or civil rights law. However, Mckop argues that, while there is important work to be done in those areas of law, it is also important that Black lawyers be included in the corporate space.
Mckop says she hopes that she can inspire and mentor other Black females to become corporate lawyers.
We definitely need way more Black corporate lawyers.
Mckop’s push for more diversity in the legal profession began during her days in UCalgary’s Faculty of Law where she founded, and was the president of, the UCalgary chapter of the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA).
Mckop says there were two main reasons for her starting the BLSA chapter. The first reason was to build a community and have support from other students with similar experiences. When she started the chapter, there were only five Black law students in all three years at UCalgary Law, and she was the only black student in second year.
“There was no natural way of connecting with the other Black students,” she says.
The second reason for starting UCalgary’s chapter was to give other Black law students from UCalgary the chance to join BLSA National and connect with other Black law students across the country.
Mckop says this is not only good for the students’ personal and professional networks, but it can also take away the feeling of isolation many Black law students may feel. “You may be the only one in your classroom, but it is important to have a peer group that you can turn to who are having similar experiences,” she says.
Despite hearing skepticism as to whether UCalgary was the proper place for an organization such as BLSA, Mckop says the law school itself was very supportive of the idea. In particular, she says, Catherine Valestuk, BA’87, assistant dean of recruiting and admissions, was instrumental in getting the organization going and continues to be involved in BLSA.
“The people who were in positions of power at UCalgary were very supportive and helpful,” she says.
Mckop has also stayed connected with UCalgary Law by sitting on its admissions committee and helping to create the Black Student Admissions Process (BSAP).
BSAP is merit-based program for applicants who self-identify as being of Black African descent, or multiracial students identifying with their Black ancestry, that provides space and visibility for applicants to speak about their lived experience and the barriers they have overcome.
Mckop says, “This program is merit based but BSAP also gives Black students the opportunity to talk about their life experience and explain why they are a good addition to the law school.”
The BSAP was first introduced in the fall 2021 admissions cycle. Mckop says the program has inspired more Black students to apply to the Faculty of Law. This year, 12 students were admitted, compared to the usual one to three students of previous years.
But Mckop says there is more work to be done. To attract more future Black law students, she says the faculty needs to continue to reiterate that the BSAP is a merit-based program to alleviate any anxieties students may have about applying. In addition, UCalgary’s BLSA chapter as well as fellow Black alumni should become more involved in admissions events.
It’s important for undergrad students who are Black and who want to go to law school to see other people who look like them doing what they want to do.
For Black students who may be on the fence about applying to UCalgary law, Mckop says there are three reasons to apply.
First, she says, the BSAP showcases the faculty’s commitment to increasing representation. Second, UCalgary’s BLSA chapter continues to grow and, as more Black students get admitted, the community will become stronger. Finally, Mckop says, UCalgary has a cost-effective, amazing law education program that offers lots of hands-on learning.
Mckop says the most valuable thing students can do is apply and then reach out and talk to students, faculty and alumni about their experience at UCalgary.
About Black History Month
During Black History Month, people in Canada celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities who, throughout history, have done so much to make Canada the culturally diverse, compassionate, and prosperous nation it is today.
The theme for 2022 is February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day.