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A message from a law student: Alexander Sánchez

By News

submitted by Alexander Alberto Sánchez, Second Year Law Student at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law

When I was five-years-old, my family and I relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah, in hopes of starting a new life. At the time, my mother and father were in search of affordable living and better employment opportunities outside of California. Due to the Salvadoran Civil War of the 1980’s, my parents migrated to the United States as undocumented immigrants. The initial socio-economic and cultural disadvantages my parents faced in a new country, prevented them from introducing me to more effective educational tools needed to succeed academically throughout my primary education.

As the oldest son in my family, navigating through school life and my responsibilities at home did not come naturally. Growing up, my parents were often left with no choice but to rely on me to care for my younger siblings while they worked. At age seven, translating documents and interpreting phone calls for my parents became a common task. And due to the language barrier that my parents faced, I was often unable to ask them for assistance on assignments and was left to figure things out on my own. I never knew how to seek out assistance in school and, for some time, I was able to get by on my own. As a first-generation college student, the challenges I faced at home and at school were very stressful and they made me grow as a person, especially when navigating through two different cultural worlds.

“As a first-generation college student, the challenges I faced at home and in school were very stressful and they made me grow as a person, especially when navigating through two different cultural worlds.” — Alexander Sánchez

The thought of college seemed unrealistic to me and was not a thought I had fully entertained until my senior year of high school. The idea of attending college only came after my high school guidance counselor asked me what my future plans were after graduation. This was the first time I had ever spoken with anyone about pursuing a higher education and the first time anyone had ever asked me about it. This counselor became my mentor and she assisted me greatly in getting sponsored into the University of Utah, through a program ran by the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs. Every year, the center would sponsor only 100 students. The program was intended to provide academic opportunities to those underrepresented students who did not meet the initial admission criteria, but who demonstrated academic potential.

One year later, that same mentor wrote a recommendation letter that dramatically helped me in being selected as a full-ride scholarship recipient. I was fortunate enough to receive the Gail and Larry H. Miller Enrichment Scholarship, which covered my undergraduate tuition completely. The directors of this scholarship also provided me with an overwhelming amount of support and guidance.

Nonetheless, I was clueless as to what steps to take in pursuing a legal education and did not personally know of any attorneys or judges that looked like me or of anyone that I could get in touch with. Through a family friend, I was able to obtain a temporary position at the firm, Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat. This was my first time being introduced to a law office and the first time I was able to work with attorneys. I knew very little about the law, but the attorneys were willing to give me an opportunity to learn and to prove myself. The genuine support and feedback that I received from these mentors further inspired me to apply to law school.

A year ago, I was debating whether I should move to Moscow, Idaho to finally pursue my dream of becoming an attorney. The thought of leaving my loved ones behind to relocate to a small town located in the panhandle of Idaho was daunting. Yet, when given the chance to pursue my calling, it was all the motivation I needed to move outof-state. Although I flourished academically at the University of Idaho College of Law, I missed Salt Lake and the legal network I used to be a part of. After my first-year law grades were posted, I decided it would be worth a shot to attempt to transfer down to the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. As a transfer student, I thought I would have a better chance of being accepted at the law school for my second year, since only my first-year grades were being considered as opposed to my initial average LSAT score. Fortunately, I was accepted as a transfer student this year.

The same summer that I applied to transfer to S.J. Quinney College of Law, I was given the opportunity to work for the firm, Conyers & Nix, as a law clerk. This opportunity was invaluable as the attorneys allowed me to shadow them in court, in jail, and in the holding cells. I was also given wide latitude to work on the preparation of several criminal trials for our clients. I am grateful that these attorneys took a chance with me and that they were willing to take the time out of their busy schedules to show me what they know and how they apply that knowledge. This mentorship allowed me to get a better sense of what a practicing criminal defense attorney does on a daily basis in and outside of the office.

Prior to attending college, I had not realized the importance of having role models. Without all of the amazing mentors in my life, I cannot confidently say that I would be in law school or in the same academic position as I am now. I strongly believe in the importance of role models for younger students that are pursuing a legal education, particularly those students that are first-generation and have no one in their family who has ever attended college, let alone law school. Many of these first-generation college students are in great need of mentorships that will provide them with guidance on how to navigate the law school application process, pursue academic advising, and seek out financial assistance.

“Without all of the amazing mentors in my life, I cannot confidently say that I would be in law school . . . I strongly believe in the importance of role models for younger students that are pursuing a legal education, particularly those students that are first-generation and have no one in their family who has ever attended college, let alone law school.” — Alexander Sánchez

My goal is to eventually work as a public defender for the Salt Lake Legal Defender Association and to one day practice immigration law. As a first-generation college student, I am proud of myself for completing my first year of law school. My first year made me grow as a person and made me realize that persistence and hard work can pay off, but only if you are willing to make sacrifices. I never thought it would be possible to attend law school and I am grateful to the many people in my life who have opened up so many doors for me. It really does take a village to raise a child, or in my case it has taken a village to get me this far in my education.

 

Pictured: Alexander Sánchez, S.J. Quinney 2L and Vice President of the First Generation Law Students Organization

Know a law student who should be featured in the next issue of Mosaic? Email us at .

Thank you to our Juneteenth Sponsors!

By News

UCLI is proud to have been selected as the beneficiary of the Utah Minority Bar Association’s Sixth Annual “Juneteenth” Fundraiser this summer. 312 individuals from over 30 law firms and organizations competed in teams and ultimately raised $44,444, making this the most successful Juneteenth fundraiser yet! UCLI sends our thanks to our wonderful legal community for its contributions which will fund UCLI’s scholarship and other programs for diverse and traditionally underrepresented students.

 

Winners of the UMBA Traveling Trophies:

Traskbritt

Burbidge | Mitchell

 

Additional top teams:

Maschoff Brennan

Dewsnup King Olsen Worel Havas Mortensen

Kirton McConkie

Durham Jones & Pinegar

Fabian VanCott

Parr Brown Gee & Loveless

S.J. Quinney College of Law

Clyde Snow

 

Other generous participants:

Holland & Hart
Parsons Behle & Latimer
Ray Quinney & Nebeker
Snell & Wilmer
Snow Christensen & Martineau
Christensen & Jensen
Ballard Spahr
Dorsey & Whitney
Eisenberg, Cutt, Kendell, Olsen
Byington & Goble, PLLC

Stoel Rives
Strong & Hanni
BYU Law
Michael Best & Friedrich
Jones Waldo
And Justice for All
Manning Curtis Bradshaw & Bednar
Hillyard Anderson Olsen
Lear & Lear, PLLC

Individual Donors: $1000
Daniel Barnett
Joseph Walkowski
Wayne McCormack
Blake Hamilton
David Trask

Individual Donors: $500
Kenneth Ashton
Ken Birrell
Lee Chang
Jasmine Fierro-Maciel
George Haley
David Leta
Rod Snow

New, More Inclusive Artwork at the Salt Lake City Justice Court Honors New Americans

By News

submitted by Kristen Olsen, UCLI Co-President

The Salt Lake City Justice Court recently installed twenty-four photographs throughout its courthouse from Nick Sokoloff’s series entitled “The New Americans of Salt Lake: Portraits of Struggle, Spirit, and Inspiration.” These photographs of Utah’s immigrants and refugees— paid for with the generous support of Salt Lake City and the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion—are intended to make the five courtrooms and lobby of the busy Salt Lake City Justice Court more welcoming and inclusive.

Traditional courthouse spaces are often designed to symbolize authority and to underscore the importance and legitimacy in the rule of law—incorporating dark wood elements, elevated judicial benches, and portraits of current or past judges. These traditional features can feel imposing and intimidating to the jurors, criminal defendants, crime victims, testifying witnesses, and courtroom observers who may have limited experience with the judicial process.

Some attorneys of color who practice in Utah’s courthouses have also lamented that the portraits of current and past judges, many of whom look homogenous, can send a message that attorneys from various ethnic and racial backgrounds do not belong at the highest levels of Utah’s legal profession.

Pictured: Portraits of the “New Americans of Salt Lake” collection featured in a Salt Lake Justice Court courtroom

The modern trend, especially in high-volume, lower-level courts such as the Salt Lake City Justice Court, is focused on making these spaces more open, inclusive, and user-friendly. Indeed, the American Bar Association has directed courts to reevaluate the messaging and micro-messaging incorporated into their courthouse design to ensure these spaces are both affirming and equitable.

Each of the photographs on display at the Salt Lake City Justice Court features an individual who recently resettled in the Salt Lake City area. Nick Sokoloff’s vision was to explore their journeys and vividly display how each individual has added to the rich fabric of our community.

The Salt Lake City Justice Court worked together with Dr. David Parker, an expert on creating positive and inclusive cultures and climates, to ensure that the four portraits selected for each courtroom struck an appropriate balance between the need to both promote the rule of law and the desire to create a welcoming and user-friendly environment.

So far, the feedback from the Salt Lake City Justice Court’s community partners has been positive. According to Judge Clemens Landau, the most common response has been: “When is the court going to get more of these photographs to fill the remaining blank walls?”

See here for more information about the New Americans Project.

See here for more information about the photographer, Nick Sokoloff.

Utah Bar Review Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship Success

By News

submitted by Ling Ritter, UCLI Assistant Director

May of this year marked the launch of the first-ever Utah Bar Review Diversity and Inclusion Scholarships for recent law school graduates, a collaborative effort of the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion (UCLI), the Young Lawyers Division of the Utah State Bar (YLD) and the law firm of Holland & Hart which provided seed funding for an inaugural scholarship recipient and hosted the kick-off reception.

The scholarship is aimed at expanding opportunity for aspiring attorneys with diverse backgrounds by awarding financial assistance for costs associated with the Utah State Bar Exam. Accordingly, scholarship recipients must demonstrate financial need as well as a strong history of serving Utah’s diverse communities and a passion for bringing about an equitable and inclusive future for Utah’s legal profession and institutions.

The effort to establish the Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship was led by Holland & Hart associate Chelsea Davis. Drawing upon her prior experience as a law student from a diverse background and upon research showing clear disparities in bar passage rates, Davis was motivated to create the scholarship as a step in the right direction toward closing the opportunity gap facing diverse law students.

“This scholarship has received astounding support from the legal community, and it shows how much and how quickly we can make a difference toward promoting diversity when we all work together toward a common goal.” — Chelsea Davis, Holland & Hart

Law students Athelia Graham (BYU J. Reuben Clark Law School ’19), Jonathan McClurg (BYU J. Reuben Clark Law School ’19), and Carlos Quijada (University of Utah SJ Quinney College of Law ’19) comprise the inaugural class of Utah Bar Review Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship recipients. From assisting immigrants and asylum-seekers and advocating for underrepresented minorities, to representing the interests of veterans and members of tribal nations, the commitment to Utah’s diverse and marginalized populations that these recipients demonstrate is extensive and inspiring.

What’s more, these incredible scholarship winners recently met an important milestone this past October, when all three recipients passed the bar exam and were admitted to practice in the state of Utah. We cannot wait to see what awaits for these emerging leaders making change in our community.

UCLI sends our congratulations and well wishes to the Utah Bar Review Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship recipients and extends our sincere gratitude to those organizations and individuals who have worked to bring this opportunity to fruition. For more information about our scholarship programs, contact Cheryl Mori at .

Pictured: Carlos Quijada (left), Legal Honors Attorney at U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Jonathan McClurg (middle), Assistant Staff Judge Advocate at United States Air Force; Athelia Graham (right), Galbraith Fellow at the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center

This featured image and additional information about the scholarship were provided to UCLI by Chelsea Davis, Associate Attorney at Holland & Hart. This article includes details from the scholarship recipient’s biographies and the Holland & Hart press release about the scholarship, which can be read HERE.

 

Help us sustain and grow programs like this! Donate at utahcli.org/donate. 

Mentoring Task Force Takes Off in Utah’s Schools

By News

submitted by Melinda Bowen, UCLI Co-President

Beginning in March 2019, UCLI assembled a group of attorneys and judges to serve as the UCLI Mentoring Task Force. Over the past several months, the Task Force has begun efforts to create an evidence-based, comprehensive mentoring program to benefit diverse Utah students beginning in K-12 schools and continuing through the early years of legal practice.

To lay the groundwork for this program, the Task Force enlisted law students to research best practices among various mentoring initiatives. Based on the research, the Task Force plans to utilize a team mentoring approach, with the aim of facilitating opportunities for each student mentee to develop ongoing relationships and to build a broad professional network that can provide helpful resources throughout all stages of the educational process. The Task Force has begun its efforts by testing certain ideas in a pilot program scheduled to run through the 2019-2020 school year. The Task Force is excited to report on the following efforts that highlight the work of our volunteers thus far.

“[T]he Task Force plans to utilize a team mentoring approach, with the aim of facilitating opportunities for each student-mentee to develop ongoing relationships and to build a broad professional network that can provide helpful resources throughout all stages of the educational process.” — Melinda Bowen

First, volunteers have connected with students at multiple K-12 schools around the state to begin exposing students to the law and the legal profession. Sean Brown, Andy Morelli, and Melina Shiraldi visited a sixth grade class at Meadowlark Elementary School. During their time with the class, these three attorneys shared their personal stories, their experiences as they made the journey through law school, and their insights about specific legal careers.

Pictured: Mentoring Task Force volunteers Melinda Bowen and Melina Shiraldi presenting at a Latinos in Action class at Alta High School

The experience, however, was not limited to the classroom; the volunteers also joined the kids in a kickball game at recess. And the students’ exposure to the law will not end with the classroom presentation and the kickball game. The class has scheduled a field trip to the University of Utah this spring, with a guided tour of the law school as a special highlight.

I also visited St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, where I spoke with students in both elementary and middle school classes, and guided interactive presentations on the law as a profession and specifically on the First Amendment and its relevance to current events. Melina Shiraldi and I provided similar presentations at Alta High School, where we visited for Constitution Day. The Alta event included three separate discussions: one with a larger group of students during an advisory period, along with two smaller classroom presentations in a Latinos in Action class and in a Legal Research class.

Before the end of the school year, one of these classes will also take a tour of a local court, with the hope of further exposing students to different aspects of the legal profession. In the coming months, volunteers will also coordinate with personnel at East High School and Valley High School to schedule similar presentations at these schools, and to begin developing a long-term program that will provide schools with a list of potential events and resources that the UCLI Mentoring Program can offer to each school that chooses to utilize our volunteers.

In the realm of undergraduate students, UCLI has begun meeting with contacts at both the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, to develop relationships with existing undergraduate programs where UCLI volunteers can lend support. Similar meetings are in the works with other schools, such as Utah State and Weber State Universities.

The Task Force has also begun its mentoring efforts with college and law students. Julie Nelson recently joined as the Chair of the college student tier and is building strong ties with diverse college groups across the state. Under the direction of Heather Thuet, the law student tier Chair, and thanks to the generous $1,500 sponsorship by the Litigation Section of the Utah State Bar, four law student UCLI mentees from both the University of Utah and BYU law schools attended the Litigation Section’s Judicial Excellence CLE and Shenanigans in Moab in October. The Task Force extends a very special thanks to the Litigation Section for making this opportunity possible for our students!

The Task Force is anxious to continue these and similar efforts, and to build on them over the coming months. The full UCLI Mentoring Program will launch at the beginning of The 2020-2021 school year. We are thrilled about the Mentoring Program and the results we’ve seen thus far, and we’d love to have you aboard. Sign up today!

Pictured: Mentoring Task Force volunteers Melina Shiraldi, Andy Morelli, and Sean Brown presenting at Meadowlark Elementary

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