For The Record

Photograph by Kim Lee Schmidt

Courtni Weaver, L’21, had seen the portrait of civil rights activist and lawyer Oliver White Hill in the hallway in the University of Richmond School of Law. Now, as the recipient of a summer fellowship established in his honor, she has reaped the benefits of Hill’s legacy, including valuable guidance from mentors who once walked in her shoes.

Richmond Law’s Oliver White Hill Foundation Public Service Internship Program provides a summer of funding for up to five law students who are interested in pursuing government, nonprofit, or public interest employment — specifically, in a program that “strengthens Virginia citizens and communities.”

Weaver, the president of Richmond Law’s Black Law Students Association, worked with the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society last summer. After working on cases involving domestic abuse, family law, eviction, bankruptcy, employment, and consumer law, one of Weaver’s primary observations is there’s a need for more public service attorneys.

“There are so many [clients in need], and we can’t touch them all,” she said. “[The experience] has kind of opened my eyes as to what’s going on right here [in Richmond].”

Through the fellowship, Weaver worked under managing attorney Doris Causey, the first African American president of the Virginia State Bar.

“She’s kind of a big deal,” said Weaver, who praised Causey as “a great example and positive role model.”

Finding a mentor — particularly an African American female attorney like Causey, who can relate to challenges Weaver has experienced and is likely to encounter — was an important component of Weaver’s legal education.

Weaver was also mentored through the Oliver White Hill Foundation, another benefit of the fellowship. A couple of times each month, “a member of the foundation reached out and wanted to hear about my experience,” she said.

“The foundation definitely cares more about students as people,” Weaver added. “They want to find someone who wants to be helped and is willing to work hard, and just help and encourage them.”

She met with seasoned attorneys over coffee or lunch to unpack her fellowship experience and ask questions about their own career paths. Receiving career advice, learning about the backgrounds of veteran lawyers, and having the opportunity to compare them to her own experiences was right up Weaver’s alley.

“I’m a sponge,” said Weaver, “and I want to soak it all up.”