This story is featured in the summer 2021 issue of St. Thomas Lawyer.
This year, the University of St. Thomas School of Law Student Government introduced the
First-Generation Law Student Association (FGLSA).
“A first-generation law student is anyone who is the first among their family to attend college or law school,” said Spencer Riegelman ‘21 J.D., FGLSA’s treasurer. “These students may lack knowledge or need support that could potentially put them at a disadvantage.”
In addition, studies show that first-generation law students are more likely to be older and from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Many first-generation students are also from ethnically diverse backgrounds and creating FGLSA was identified, within the law school’s Racial Justice Action Plan, as an opportunity to better support an inclusive campus community.
The disparities for first-generation students are particularly visible during finals and summer job searching. Students look for advice and guidance on when to apply for jobs, how to study for finals, and what their next year of school might look like, but may not know where to turn, which is why FGLSA is so important to its members.
“I know how much I would have appreciated being able to relate to other law students that were in the same boat as me, no family-member lawyers to look to for advice and guidance; whether that was about law school or getting a job in the legal community,” said Ben Feller ‘21 J.D., this year’s FGLSA vice president.
Ben describes how he did not understand how advantageous it was to have a relative in the legal field in Minnesota until it came time to apply for a job after his first year. Networking is an important part of law school, and it is even easier with built-in support.
FGLSA’s president Megan Kratzke ‘21 J.D. says that, “FGLSA’s primary goals are to address the needs of first-generation students and to create a community on campus that provides support and encouragement through regular meetings and events.”
While FGLSA hopes to provide resources and opportunities to first-generation law students, a main priority is building a community of students to connect with one another and feel comfortable communicating their needs to the organization. The board members also want to put a focus on making the transition into law school easier for future first-generation law students.
Next year, now that COVID-19 safety protocols have eased, FGLSA is looking forward to finally holding events where students can interact with members in person and learn more about the organization. The board says it has been difficult to be a brand-new club on campus during a pandemic with remote meetings.
“I hope that FGLSA continues to grow and connect first-generation students with like-minded attorneys and other professionals,” said Kratzke. “I am confident that the organization will have a strong presence on campus moving forward.”