2L Stein Scholar Lorena Jiron puts her leadership skills to work on behalf of Latino law students at Fordham and beyond.
Q: In addition to being a member of the Stein Scholars Program, what other ways have you been active in the public interest lawyering community lately?
A: I started to participate in the Latin American Law Students Association last year and joined the LALSA executive board at the beginning of this school year. I also became Fordham’s delegate to the Metropolitan Latin American Law Student Association (MetroLALSA) of New York City.
Q: What are LALSA and MetroLALSA and why did you decide to get involved with them?
A: LALSA aims to foster and maintain a community at Fordham Law School for Latino legal professionals. MetroLALSA is made up of the LALSA chapters at 13 area law schools: Fordham, Columbia, NYU, Brooklyn, NYLS, Seton Hall, CUNY, Cardozo, Pace, Hofstra, Rutgers, St. John’s, and Touro. It formed six years ago in 2010. Each participating school has one voting delegate. I started attending MetroLALSA because the meetings provide me with a sense of community that I felt was harder to find at Fordham. There are not a lot of visible Latino students currently enrolled at Fordham. It is refreshing to participate in Metro meetings because they are attended by students who share my background and story (e.g., first in their family to graduate from college, first in their family to go to law school, etc.) and they understand the obstacles I face in this regard.
Q: MetroLALSA’s sixth annual Pa’lante Conference is being hosted by Fordham’s LALSA, right?
A: Yes, the Pa’lante Conference will take place at Fordham Law School on Saturday, March 12 from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. We are expecting around 150 attendees: law students, practitioners, and college students. You can learn more and register here: http://www.metrolalsa.org/palante-vi-conference/.
Q: What does Pa’lante mean?
A: It is hard to translate, but it is meant to convey a sense that together we are moving forward, we are here and part of a community, so let’s get inspired. The conference goal is to provide law students with an opportunity to network with lawyers. It is also a pipeline for college students, so we arrange a mock 1L class for them to attend. We have a keynote speaker, panels and workshops, and plenty of opportunities for the exchange of ideas. It is a unique undertaking in that it is run entirely by Latino law students for the Latino legal community. It is also unique because the conference attracts such cross-generational participation: lawyers, law students, and college students.
Panels are being considered on the following topics: 1) the Voting Rights Act, Evenwel v. Abbott, and some initiatives that the Latino community can do to protect voting rights; 2) LGBT and the law; 3) community lawyering; and 4) big data/privacy. Attorneys can earn up to 4 CLE credits at the conclusion of the conference.
While it is open to everyone, our goal is to attract and involve a group of people who want to help support Latino law students.
Q: Why was it important to you that the conference take place at Fordham?
A: Latinos are struggling in this country, which has an impact on law school applications. For example, it was a huge journey for me to get to law school. I knew that if we hosted the conference at Fordham, we would bring lots of Latino students and lawyers to the School and bring positive attention to the school as well. That, in turn, could help attract future Latino applicants. Those Latino students will receive an amazing law school education here and their presence at the School will benefit other students by bringing new perspectives to the classrooms and student life. We need to remind applicants that it is possible to succeed here and that they will be supported.
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of planning the conference so far?
A: The most rewarding aspect of the conference planning has been the phenomenal support we have received from Fordham Law School Dean Matthew Diller and Assistant Dean Nitza Escalera. They have both been totally on board from the beginning, and we would not have been able to even consider being the host school without that commitment.
Q: Any lessons learned?
A: It has been a challenge to fit the conference planning in with my regular 2L obligations, so I have a new appreciation for event organizers. I now understand how much work is required to organize even the smallest program. I also realize that in order to make any progress, one needs a strong support system. You can’t do it alone.
Q: What is the relationship, if any, to being a Stein Scholar and deciding to take on this project?
A: If I was not a Stein Scholar, I would not have even considered taking this challenge on. Starting out law school as a Stein Scholar filled me with a sense of confidence that I can make things happen. It enhanced and encouraged the leadership potential that I had started to develop during college and in my jobs after college. Not only does the Stein Scholars Program help develop leadership skills, but as a Stein you are expected to give back to your community, in whatever ways you can. You are asked to step up, and organizing this conference is my way of stepping up. Finally, as a Stein Scholar, you are a member of a community of people who are constantly setting examples and providing inspiration, both the students and the alumni. Every time I meet a Stein alumnus they want to give back. Your first year at law school can be very infantilizing, so just because one is a leader before law school doesn’t necessarily mean one will be a leader here, unless you find a community to support you on that journey. For me, the Stein Scholars Program is that supportive community.