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Get to Know UDC Law: Student Edition | LaFonda Willis

Tuesday, May 22, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Erin Looney
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Among the more than 200 U.S. law schools, UDC David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) consistently ranks in the top 10 for diversity. Among its diverse student body, UDC Law has a number of students who would call themselves “advocates,” “activists” or “changemakers.” In fact, a mission to represent underserved residents and a faculty committed to helping students pursue practical advocacy throughout the District of Columbia has led to the school’s A rating for practical training from preLaw Magazine and consistent top ten rankings for the same from U.S. News & World Report. UDC Law also was ranked #2 for government and public interest job placement by National Law Journal and #1 in community service per student by The National Jurist.

Behind the outstanding rankings are even more impressive people, and UDC Law is excited to share their goals, achievements, and inspiring stories.

Meet LaFonda Willis

LaFonda Willis
Willis at UDC Law

If UDC Law prepares students to use the law to help people in need and reshape our community, LaFonda Willis is a shining example of what that looks like. She has already made a career out of working hard to empower D.C. residents through her advocacy and by implementing a number of projects that have created significant change in the lives of people in the District of Columbia.

Willis is entering her second year at UDC Law and is a seasoned professional with over a decade of experience in the public sector. Before law school, Willis earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from the School of Business at the University of Miami (FL), a Master of Arts in Teaching in Elementary Education from the University of the District of Columbia Center for Urban Education and a master’s in criminal justice. Willis has also completed educational programs at American University (Washington, D.C.), The University of Ghana (East Legon, Ghana, West Africa) and the University of Oxford (Oxford, England).

After studying business law as an undergraduate, Willis applied her business education, training and skills in a social justice context to improve outcomes for disadvantaged groups. She has worked as a teacher and Dean of Students for the District of Columbia Public Schools, where she empowered students to perform at their highest levels and slashed out-of-school suspension rates. She also served on the boards of the NAACP – D.C. Chapter, Ward 5 Education Council and National African-American Drug Policy Coalition – D.C. Chapter.

LaFonda Willis with students
Dean Willis with middle school students at Lasalle-Backus Education Campus

Willis is committed to improving outcomes for D.C. residents and youth. For instance, she drafted and presented policy recommendations to the D.C. Council that enabled legislative action and regulatory improvements supporting District of Columbia youth. Seeing a need for a more organized support system for at-risk D.C. youth, Willis organized and implemented a Speaker’s Bureau featuring 26 African-American role models for system-involved youth and founded a social enterprise, the Institute for Equity and Excellence in Public Education (IE2PE), aimed at “helping D.C. youth compete and thrive in the 21st century global economy.”

Willis recognizes that empowering a community means helping its members achieve economic mobility. To this end, she has collaborated with leading D.C. agencies, including the Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity, the D.C. Workforce Investment Council and the D.C. Superior Court, to implement a tech-sector workforce development initiative for unemployed District residents. Willis has also advocated to increase minority contractor participation in public construction projects. Moreover, she has testified before the D.C. Council Committee on Labor and Workforce Development in support of youth workforce development and the 2017 Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment Enhancement Act. In addition to her work in the criminal and juvenile justice, education, labor and workforce development arenas, Willis has also focused on healthcare by volunteering with former Congressman John Conyers on Capitol Hill to provide advocacy support for H.R. 676, the "Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.”

Willis’s broad and deep background in the public sector will serve her well in the legal profession, particularly in a career at the intersection of public service, business and law. Willis is passionate about promoting and protecting the public interest by holding corporations accountable for business practices that harm citizens and communities, stifle competition in the market and harm consumers. She also seeks to promote the public interest by preventing, addressing and deterring fraud against the public trust. Willis’s areas of legal interest include affirmative civil enforcement and litigation, administrative and regulatory law, commercial litigation and housing and community justice. Willis will spend her 1L summer as a Summer Associate at the D.C. Office of the Attorney General with the Public Integrity and Housing and Community Justice Sections, where she will engage her passion and interests.

LaFonda Willis with students
Willis with elementary girls at the Mother Daughter Tea at Whittier Education Campus

Aligned with her interests and goals, Willis participates in the American Bar Association’s Section of Antitrust Law Mentoring Program, is President of the American Constitution Society at UDC Law and is the first Political Action Chair of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) at UDC Law, a position she was instrumental in creating. In addition, she is a student member of the National Bar Association and the Greater Washington Area Chapter (GWAC), the American Constitution Society – D.C. Lawyers Chapter and the Washington Bar Association.

As a law student of African-American and Native-American descent, Willis is also passionate about advancing diversity in the legal profession. In her capacity with GWAC, Willis advocates for the advancement of women and lawyers of color in the government, corporate and judicial arenas. She also implements programming to highlight and devise strategies to address these issues.

True to her nature, Willis’s favorite pastime is celebrating life and its victories with family and friends. She also enjoys traveling internationally for leisure and across the U.S. to visit family. She is scheduled to visit South America during the 2018 Labor Day weekend. Willis is a proud and involved aunt, a native of the Midwest and a member of Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. After graduating law school, Willis aims to be a Trial Attorney with the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, and in 10 years, a judge in the District of Columbia.

LaFonda Willis and Breanna Bledsoe
Willis and Breanna Bledsoe, Legislative Counsel for Council member Robert White, at an IE2PE event
LaFonda Willis and John Green
Willis and John Green from the D.C. Office of the Attorney General at an IE2PE juvenile justice event
LaFonda Willis with students
Willis encouraging elementary girls to spread their wings on an empowering field trip in Silver Spring, Md.
LaFonda Willis and Eric Holder
Willis with Attorney General Eric Holder at a congressional event in Washington, D.C.
LaFonda Willis with students
Willis takes middle school students to see Attorney General Loretta Lynch
LaFonda Willis with students
Willis posing with eight mentors from her "Boys of Color Mentoring Program" at Whittier Education Campus



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