The Los Abogados LSAT Fellowship Program

In 2017, Los Abogados commenced the LSAT Fellowship Program, which provided 10 aspiring lawyers with a Kaplan LSAT course and much more. Los Abogados believes one of the best ways to increase the pipeline of diverse attorneys to the legal profession is to assist students with the law school admissions process. Los Abogados realized LSAT scores are an integral part of that process, and far too often aspiring law students do not have access to quality LSAT prep courses. Moreover, LSAT scores can make the difference between being admitted to an accredited law school, and obtaining the scholarships needed to make law school a financial possibility. Additionally, Los Abogados recognized there was also a need to guide and mentor these aspiring lawyers through the pre-law school process, including applying for law school and obtaining funding to pay for their education.

With the help of Kaplan, Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law (ASU School of Law), and generous sponsors, Los Abogados provided 10 fellows with a free, complete, in-person Kaplan LSAT prep course. But more than that, Los Abogados, through its members, met with the students regularly during the week and on weekends, assisting them with the LSAT course, proctoring practice tests, providing mentorship, and assisting with the law school application and personal statements. Los Abogados has guided the fellows every step of the way in their goal to become attorneys.

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Los Abogados spent many hours planning and fundraising for this program, as well as selecting the 10 fellows from 27 applicants. Los Abogados Board members negotiated and contracted with Kaplan to provide the students with the very best LSAT program the company offered. The entire program was administered by Los Abogados volunteers, and the $10,000 program was fully sponsored by Los Abogados and its members.

Los Abogados is very proud that the 2018 program is already fully funded, and Los Abogados expects to continue to garner enthusiastic support in the future. Now, sister bar associations have inquired as to whether they may encourage their own student members to apply for the Los Abogados LSAT Fellowship Program, which we whole-heartedly welcome.

The Los Abogados Mentorship Program

Once an individual becomes a law student, Los Abogados is committed to assisting students successfully navigate the law school experience and transition to the practice of law. At the start of each semester, Los Abogados pairs interested students from ASU, the University of Arizona, and Arizona Summit Law School, as well as undergraduate students, with attorney mentors within the organization. The mentors and mentees set their own schedule and goals in a one on one setting and are encouraged to attend networking events together. The program has resulted in many meaningful connections, ranging from helping students find a friendly face at networking events to landing a position post-graduation. Often, these connections develop into strong professional and personal relationships that last well beyond the mentees’ school years.

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The Los Abogados Hon. Valdemar A. Cordova Scholarship
ASU and UofA Endowments

Los Abogados created the Hon. Valdemar A. Cordova Scholarship in 1988 for the sole purpose of providing scholarships to Latino law students. The annual fundraising for these scholarships developed into a broader effort to raise funds for an endowment, preserving those scholarships in perpetuity. In 2015, Los Abogados achieved a decades-long goal and created and funded a $100,000 endowment at the ASU College of Law. Through additional donations, this scholarship has grown to $185,000. This year, Los Abogados achieved the second phase of this goal, and funded a $100,000 endowment at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers’ College of Law for the same purpose. Los Abogados also provides an annual scholarship to an Arizona Summit student. The Los Abogados Scholarships are given to students who are active in and supportive of the Hispanic/Latino community. The hope is that Los Abogados will alleviate the financial burden placed on these future lawyers while in law school and will thus inspire them to later pay it forward by continuing to support future law students and the Latino community.

Partnership with the AGUILA Youth Leadership Institute

Beginning in 2017 and through the present, Los Abogados partnered with the AGUILA Youth Leadership Institute (“AGUILA”) and ASU School of Law to provide a moot court program to high school students interested in becoming lawyers. The students are all members of AGUILA, which is a non-profit that provides comprehensive programing and support systems to diverse high school students who want to go to college. At monthly AGUILA symposiums, the pre-law students attended seminars where attorneys and law professors lifted the veil on the legal profession, providing students with information regarding what lawyers do and what the practice of law is like. For the moot court program, students were broken up into teams and were coached and instructed on how to draft and analyze a legal issue, research the applicable law, draft a legal brief, and present their argument to a judge at oral argument.

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Los Abogados Activities 2017

On January 9, 2017, in celebration of the 53rd Arizona Legislature First Session. Los Abogados joined the Arizona Legislative Black Caucus and the Arizona Latino Caucus for a reception to raise funds for graduating high school seniors. Los Abogados promoted the event and helped raise funds for it.

On January 16th, to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Los Abogados President Jason Barraza and myself released a press release celebrating the appointment of Justice John R. Lopez to the Arizona Supreme Court, the first Latino to hold that position.

Advocating for Arizona’s Hispanic Community, Los Abogados on January 29th made a press release in opposition of the appointments of John Kelly and Jeff sessions as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and United States Attorney General.

Los Abogados is deeply connected to our local legal community. Of particular note is the support and respect shared between Los Abogados and the ASU School of Law. Supporting the Law School on January 23rd Los Abogados members promoted and attended the School’s Stand your Ground CLE.

Los Abogados members were instrumental in bringing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Arizona on January 23rd. Justice Sotomayor made an incredible impact on our community with her inspirational life story. She held meetings with different sections of the community, all arranged with the assistance of Los Abogados members. She met local attorneys, the ASU Law Community, and attended a forum at ASU School of Law where members of the community could share a conversation with her. During the conversation, Justice Sotomayor shook the hand of every community member that attended that event.

On January 30, 2017 Los Abogados again raised their voice in support of the Hispanic Community by releasing a statement in opposition to President Trump’s “travel ban” executive Order.

On February 21st Los Abogados supported the Chicano Latino Law Students Association’s Fajita Cookoff by sponsoring and fundraising for the event. Los Abogados also had a team, made up of attorney board members, compete in the event.

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On March 1st, Los Abogados proudly supported Los Abogados Member and past HNBA Region XIV President, Professor Charles Calleros, as he was presented with the 2017 Outstanding Faculty Award by ASU Law.

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Los Abogados has been growing their relationships with the community, interacting, supporting and fundraising for various diverse organizations that support the Hispanic Community. On March 3rd Los Abogados assisted with a fundraising concert to support various Hispanic organizations.

On March 13th Los Abogados held a community luncheon. The speaker was Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes.

On March 16th Los Abogados Immediate Past President Jessica Sanchez and Board Member Ray Ybarra Maldonado presented a free CLE and Community Discussion about Immigration and Public Schools at ASU Law.

Many Los Abogados members are being recognized in the community for their achievements within the organization and in their individual efforts. On March 22nd at the Judge Learned Hand Awards Luncheon, Los Abogados member January Contreras was awarded the Public Service Award. The Hispanic National Bar Association honored Ashley Villaverde Halvorson, Jessica Sanchez and Freddy Saavedra with the HNBA Top Attorneys under 40 Award.

On March 28th a Legislative bill for which Los Abogados lobbied was passed. An issue was raised by members of Los Abogados that in Arizona a victim of sex trafficking could also be found guilty of prostitution, thereby permanently affecting this person’s criminal record and ability to lead a better life. With the assistance of Los Abogados member and State Senator Martin Quezada, Senate Bill 1422, allowing for the vacating of a criminal record of prostitution for victims of sex trafficking, passed the State Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey.

On April 19th, the 13th Annual Latina Mentoring Project/Los Abogados Brunch was held. Los Abogados members were instrumental in planning and hosting this annual event, which brings female students, attorneys and judges from diverse backgrounds together to network. Los Abogados honored past president Lori Higuera with the Latina Leadership Award.

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On Saturday April 29th Los Abogados held their 18th Annual Los Abogados Golf Tournament benefiting the Los Abogados Hon. Valdemar A. Cordova Scholarship.

At their May 19th Luncheon, Los Abogados invited Arizona Supreme Court Justice John R. Lopez IV to speak. From left to right are Justice Lopez, Judge Beene of the Arizona Court of Appeals and Los Abogados Board member and HNBA Deputy President Will Knight.

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On June 23rd Los Abogados issued a press release in support of the community and against the Court of Appeals ruling in Arizona v. MCCCD.

On July 7th Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary held a discussion on Latinos and the Judicial System in which Estuardo Rodriguez and HNBA Region XIV Deputy President Honorable Mina Mendez and Los Abogados member January Contreras were speakers. Los Abogados members helped promote the event to the community.

On July 13th Los Abogados hosted a Free Summer Mentoring CLE at the Arizona Supreme Court. In conjunction with the Arizona Black Bar, the Arizona Collaborative Bar, the Commission on Minorities, and the Arizona Judicial Branch, this event was open to the community and all sister bars.

On August 2nd, Los Abogados, in conjunction with other associations, held a community forum to discuss the pathway to the bench for Latinos and other diverse candidates. Panelists included: Justice Robert M. Brutinel, Arizona Supreme Court; Judge James P. Beene, Arizona Court of Appeals Division One; Kathryn King, Deputy General Counsel, Office of the Governor, State of Arizona; Jason Barraza, Maricopa County Commission on Trial Court Appointments; and Steve Silverman, Maricopa County Commission on Trial Court Appointments

The Los Abogados September Luncheon was a discussion on Arizona’s School Voucher Program. Political experts Chris Herstam (Principal at Lewis Roca Rothberger Christie, LLP) and Stan Barnes (President, Copper State Consulting Group), presented.

On October 14th, Los Abogados held its annual Gala. It is a well-attended as 500+ community members help Los Abogados celebrate its achievements and members, who are presented with awards. The Gala is also a fundraiser for the Los Abogados Hon. Valdemar A. Cordova Scholarship, and we were successful in raising $100,000.

On October 27th the Third Annual Latina Mentoring Project Fall Wine and Cheese Reception was hosted by incoming Los Abogados President Ashley Villaverde Halvorson and her firm Jones, Skelton & Hochuli. The Latina Mentoring Project was founded by 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Mary Murguia who provided remarks at the reception, as well as long-time Los Abogados member Mina Mendez.

On Saturday, December 9, 2017 the ACLU of Arizona and Los Abogados held a free clinic to train attorneys to help victims of unlawful stops by the MCSO fill out applications for the Compensation Fund Program awarded by the District Court in Ortega-Melendres v. Penzone.

That same day Los Abogados President Ashley Halvorson and I flew to New Orleans to bid on bringing the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Corporate Counsel Conference and Moot Court Competition to Phoenix in March of 2020. The bid was unanimously approved, and this conference will be coming to Phoenix for the very first time!

Los Abogados Activities 2018

On January 11, Los Abogados issued a press release calling on Arizona’s Congressional Delegation to pass a clean DREAM Act and encouraging members and the community to contact Arizona’s congressional representatives.

On January 29th, Los Abogados issued a statement regarding President Donald Trump’s end of the Temporary Protected Status Program and on comments made by President Trump.

On February 22, Los Abogados held a presentation, entitled Attorney Advocacy for the DREAMer Movement at Ballard Spahr. The presenters included DREAM activists: Korina Iribe-Romo, Undocumented Students for Education Equity at ASU (USEE); Salvador Macias, Attorney & Activist; Jessica Rubio, Academic and Leadership Accelerator for Service (ALAS); and Karina Ruiz, Arizona Dream Act Coalition (ADAC).

On February 24th, Los Abogados and the ACLU held another clinic to train attorneys to help victims in the Ortega-Melendres v. Penzone case.

On February 24th, Los Abogados board member hosted the 14th Annual Latina Brunch, where Los Abogados and the Latina Mentoring Project honored long-time member and former Los Abogados Vice President Marian Zapata-Rossa with the Latina Leader award.

On March 6th, the Arizona Chapter of the American Constitution Society and the Los Abogados Hispanic Bar Association presented "A Year of Decision," a panel discussion on prospects for progressive change in 2018 in election law and voting rights, both nationally and in Arizona. Presenters included Nina Perales, National Director of Litigation for MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Professor Joshua Sellers, Associate Professor of Law, ASU O'Connor College of Law; Roopali Desai, Partner, Coppersmith Brockelman, Phoenix; Bruce V. Spiva, Partner, Perkins Coie, Washington, D.C.; and Joel Edman, Executive Director, Arizona Advocacy Network.

On March 9, the AJC gave the Judge Learned Hand Community Service Award to Los Abogados member and past president Danny Ortega. He was introduced by current Los Abogados president Ashley Halvorson.

On March 16th Los Abogados members and ASU Law Students attended the Hispanic National Bar Association Corporate Counsel Conference and Moot Court Competition in San Francisco. Five attending Los Abogados Attorneys were awarded the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Top Attorneys Under 40 award: Marian Zapata-Rossa; Cindy Villanueva; Will Knight; Michael Valenzuela; and Marcos Tapia. Will Knight was also the coach of ASU Law’s Moot Court Team.

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