3L Nija Bastfield and 2Ls Alexus McNeal and Songo Wawa have been chosen as fellows by LexisNexis African Ancestry Network (AAN) and LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation (LNROLF) for 2022. Founded last year, the competitive fellowship identifies law students from across the six law schools at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) as part of an effort by LexisNexis Legal & Professional (LNLP) to eliminate systemic racism in the legal system while also working to advance the rule of law.
Bastfield, McNeal and Wawa will each receive a $10,000 tuition grant, and the nine-month fellowship will provide opportunities for them to develop leadership skills, accelerate their careers and work on projects with LexisNexis employees to address systemic racism in the legal system. “Advancement of the rule of law favorably impacts on societies – including their most vulnerable members,” President of LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation Ian McDougall said. “Any system becomes fairer and more equitable when the four key elements are enhanced: equality under the law, transparency of law, independent judiciary and accessible legal remedy.” This year’s Fellows will also be mentored and receive professional development opportunities focused on technology and data analytics.
Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at LexisNexis Legal & Professional Ronda Moore said, “Our fellows come from different backgrounds and have already achieved many significant accomplishments. The Fellowship is a convergence of their talent and passion to advance the rule of law with the power of LexisNexis products and technology to study and solve complex challenges. Their efforts will make an immediate impact and inspire many for generations to come.”
UDC Law students have been among the cohort both years of the fellowship; 3Ls Jamal Bailey and Pearl Mansu were chosen in the inaugural year.
Meet UDC Law’s LexisNexis Rule of Law Fellows
Nija Bastfield is pursuing a legal career dedicated to addressing injustice and providing opportunity by becoming a federal prosecutor and a judge. She hopes to stay committed to advancing diversity in the profession through several mentoring and assistance projects, including serving as a mentor to UDC Law students, establishing a scholarship to assist minority women in the evening program and creating a nonprofit to increase opportunity for evening law students. Bastfield has been active in the Baltimore City community since 2014 with an emphasis on helping residents prepare resumes and job documents through her resume and grant writing business All Things Paper. She will continue serving the community by providing pro bono legal services in at-risk neighborhoods in Baltimore City, where she has worked as Head Law Clerk in the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City for the past seven years.
Bastfield is a Writing Mentor for the UDC Writing Hub, Student Bar Association Student Senate Minority Leader, Themis Student Representative, member of the National Black Prosecutors Association and UDC’s Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity. She graduated from University of Baltimore in 2018 with a master’s in Public Administration and in 2012 with a master’s in Legal and Ethical Studies. She received her Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies in 2008 from Stevenson University. She has worked as a Legal Intern with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., Legal Intern with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, a Management Assistant with the Federal Aviation Administration, and a Law Clerk with the Law Office of Barry R. Glazer, P.C. Bastfield will be a 2022 Summer Law Fellow for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Alexus McNeal has served as SBA Class Senator, BLSA Representative, Barbri Representative, SBA Social Media Manager and Student Attorney for the Community Development Law Clinic. McNeal is a Cafritz Foundation Scholar.
She has worked with the Distant Relatives Project, which helps develop underserved communities by creating opportunity and access to resources in areas like education, healthcare and housing. She has worked to improve student outcomes through competitive policy debate with Washington Urban Debate League and mentored aspiring Black lawyers with Bridge Builders Esq.
McNeal is pursuing a career in transactional law with the aim of bettering the economic health of underrepresented communities.
Songo Wawa was nominated as the National Bar Institute Law Scholar and elected as the 1L Day Senator and ABA Representative. She worked as a LexisNexis student ambassador and a legal research assistant in the Law Library, and she received a certificate from the Federal Bar Association in Telecommunications, Media, and Technology Law and Policy. Wawa has also taught as a teacher’s assistant for Professor Fraidin’s Civil Procedure course.
Wawa was raised as a military dependent of two Army Veterans and is native to military bases around the world. Wawa received her undergraduate degree from the University of San Diego where she majored in International Relations. She has promoted social justice as a prior AmeriCorps member and a volunteer at the San Diego Urban League Young Professionals in San Diego.