A law school room has been turned into a colorful closet, full of professional dresses and suits.
March 04, 2024

ASU Law students build equity with professional clothing donation closet

One conversation can spark a big idea. 

That was the case for second-year law students Alyannah Buhman and Kiara Sims when they were working pro bono last year with the Arizona Black Bar Association. The two friends met through the Black Law Students Association. 

Two law students sort through a pile of clothes.

“I was stressed because I did not have professional clothing,” said Buhman. “I didn’t buy my first suit until May of my first year when there was a big sale. We just started talking about the struggles of finding clothes that fit you right and make you look good. 1Ls can’t work and many externships are unpaid. We realized it was a barrier for us and it probably was for others too.”

Judge Carol Berry, retired from the Phoenix Municipal Court, mentioned to Buhman and Sims that she had some suits to donate and others began to chime in. The BLSA Donation Closet took off from there. 

Sims and Buhman said ASU Law staff was extremely supportive from the start, even locating a space at the law school to house the donated items. Dean Stacy Leeds and Professor Charles Calleros were the first to donate clothes. The free closet opened up to students on Feb. 2 and has seen massive success in its first few weeks of operation. 

A white sign next to some brown shoes.
A sign illustrates the rules of the BLSA Donation Closet, which opened for all law students on Feb. 2 at the Beus Center for Law and Society.

“As soon as I posted our official opening notice on LinkedIn, the Phoenix legal community began to flood in with offers of support and donations,” said Sims. “We even received offers from firms in other states. Now that people outside of our circle know about the closet, I have nearly been overwhelmed by the generosity and support of our legal community. Firms are offering to host clothing collections in their offices, attorneys are reaching out to schedule donations, and even more, attorneys are sharing our initiative with others to do the same.”

Sims and Buhman said students have responded so positively and thanked them for their contribution. 

“It was overwhelming in the most positive way,” added Buhman. “We expected a few suits tucked away in a room. To know our community supports our students and wants us here means a lot. It’s hard to ask for things.”

The closet works on an honor system and is open to all law students 24/7. Sims and Buhman will continue to receive donations on a rolling basis until they graduate in 2025. They hope BLSA will continue their efforts after they leave, and other law schools across the U.S. will adopt something similar for their students in need, not only for the equity it contributes to but also the community it is helping to build.

Both students say the closet speaks to the collaborative and supportive environment at ASU Law, which encourages students to work together to build a better community.

“In a lot of my other service projects, I never get to see the end result or the impact of the service on people, just by the nature of where I tend to fall in the resource chain,” said Sims. “With the closet, I've been enjoying helping students find things and getting the instant gratification of hearing about which interviews the suits will be worn in. It is nice to have a service project that is student-oriented because I get to share the experience with my peers.”

Written by Lindsay Walker