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UCLI Associate Director, Jon Wayas Participates in the Utah State Bar Leadership Academy

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UCLI Associate Director Jon Wayas was chosen to be a part of the 2023 class of the Utah State Bar Leadership Academy. Each year 12 Utah attorneys are chosen to participate in this program. Generally, participants have been attorneys for 10 years or less. The program is a chance for lawyers to learn leadership skills and build camaraderie with the other members of their cohort.  The program aims to put participants on a path to become leaders in their own firms and organizations, as well as in the wider Utah State Bar and legal community. As part of the program, participants are also required to serve on a bar committee for at least one year. Jon began serving on the Character and Fitness committee in the summer. This committee reviews applications for those seeking to take the Utah State Bar Examination. The program has been a great benefit to Jon in his work with UCLI. 

The Leadership Academy started with a retreat where attorneys participate in workshops and social activities to quickly build trust and a sense of community. The group then met monthly to learn from respected attorneys and experts. These meetings included topics such as bystander training, how to have difficult conversations, and how to better advocate for yourself in your career. The group also had the opportunity to meet with the Utah Supreme Court to gain perspective and advice on career goals and growth. Of the program Jon says, “The program has helped me gain a close group of friends I would not have met otherwise. It has been great to see the reciprocal help we have been able to give each other in our various professional roles. On a personal level, it has been great to have people to turn for support, and to celebrate our personal and professional successes. I am immensely grateful to have been chosen to participate in the program this year. I would encourage everyone to apply in the future.”

Click here to apply for the 2024 year. The application deadline is November 17, 2023.

Donor Spotlight: Law School Admission Council (LSAC)

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The Utah Center for Legal Inclusion (UCLI) would not be able to successfully run its programming without the support of incredible donors and partners. One of our recent, first-time donors is the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). LSAC is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to advance law and justice by encouraging diverse, talented individuals to study law and by supporting their enrollment and learning journeys from pre-law through practice. 

UCLI and LSAC share a common vision for the future of the legal profession, and UCLI is honored to receive the LSAC DEI Pipeline Grant for programming during 2024. 

Thanks to this generous grant, UCLI will be able to launch a new program: the 2024 UCLI and Kirton McConkie Pre-law Fellowship. This Fellowship aims to support up to 10 individuals interested in the study of law. The Fellowship includes an enrichment series of 10 seminars on topics related to law school, the legal field, and law school application; access to a designated attorney mentor and law student mentor; a fully paid LSAT course; and reimbursement of certain related expenses. Additional information about eligibility and programming is available here; interested individuals may apply here. We express deep gratitude to the additional donors who have made this program possible: Kirton McConkie, Utah Bar Foundation, and the University of Utah Office of General Counsel. 

We express our gratitude to LSAC and look forward to a collaborative relationship in the years to come!

*This project received funding from the Law School Admission Council, Inc. (LSAC).  The opinions and conclusions contained in this document are the opinions and conclusions of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of LSAC.

UCLI Fall 2023 Pre-Law Symposium

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On Friday, October 20, 2023 the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion held the third UCLI Pre-law Symposium. This was made possible by the University of Utah SJ Quinney College of Law, and their talented and capable event and IT staff. This marks the second Symposium held with the school, and UCLI is grateful for their generosity and expertise. The event was attended by 54 students who ranged from freshman undergraduates to professionals seeking career changes.

The symposium continues to help close the gap between a legal education and the current place a given student finds themselves. This is achieved through support from the admissions offices of SJ Quinney College of Law, represented by Associate Dean Reyes Aguilar, and the BYU J Reuben Clark Law School, represented by Assistant Dean Tony Grover. Students also heard from Justin Zieman, the Regional Director of AccessLex Institute, a non-profit which provides support and resources to pre-law and law students.

The second panel gave attendees perspectives on what to expect during law school. The panel consisted of four current law students, Rachel Passey and Bree Spaulding from SJ Quinney, and Elena Guanuna and Jehicob Torres from J. Reuben Clark. The panel was moderated by attorney Gabriela Mena of the firm Skordas & Caston. The panel provides a great opportunity to understand what to expect in law school, and provides encouragement to attendees that law school is hard but manageable.

For the second year attendees had the privilege to be taught in a mock class given by Associate Dean Louisa Heiny of SJ Quinney. Dean Heiny taught a criminal law case in an approachable and engaging way. The mock class is a great way for students to understand what to expect from a law school class, and to begin to gain confidence that they can see themselves being successful in this type of setting. 

The final panel of the day was delivered in partnership with the Utah Black Lawyers Association. Attorney Samantha Frazier of Coil Law was joined by panelists Zakia Richardson, in-house counsel at Pluralsight, Engels Tejeda, Partner at Holland & Hart, and Beatryx Washington, General Counsel at OC Tanner. The panel highlighted the breadth of opportunities available to attorneys once they enter practice. It was also a chance to highlight how attorneys navigate cultural and life balance challenges to find success in their careers. 

The day ended with a keynote address by US Attorney Trina Higgins. Trina is the first woman in Utah to be presidentially appointed to the US Attorney position. Trina has been an ardent supporter of the UCLI Pre-law Symposium from the first event. Last April she gave of her time to visit with attendees at our first Symposium. It was a pleasure to have her back as the keynote to hear her amazing story, and words of encouragement. Trina has had an amazing career, and has shown through her actions how to build more equitable and inclusive work environments.

UCLI expresses gratitude to all those who participated in creating this educational and inspirational experience for those who attend. We again express our gratitude to the team at SJ Quinney who made this event possible. We also express thanks to our sponsors, Ballard Spahr, Michael Best, Nelson & Naegle, The Lone Peak Valuation Group, and the ADR Section of the Utah State Bar. We are grateful for the participation of these incredible attendees and wish them well on their journeys to law school.

UCLI Highlighted in Law 360 Article

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UCLI Associate Director Jon Wayas recently participated in a panel discussion with fellow Utah Attorneys at the Federal Bar Association’s national Convention in Memphis, TN. The panel was a chance to highlight the inclusion efforts being made by various organizations across Utah’s legal community. As a result of this panel, Jon Wayas was interviewed by an editor at the website Law 360. The interview and subsequent article are a great opportunity to highlight UCLI on a national level. The article can be read here or here.

Staying in the Game CLE Event

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On October 5, 2023, the Utah Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, in partnership with the Utah Center for Legal Inclusion, the Women Lawyers of Utah, and the Utah State Bar were proud to present Staying in the Game, a CLE event centered on the topic of Recruiting, Retaining, and Promoting the Advancement of Women and Diverse Talent in the Legal Profession. We gathered at noon and enjoyed a delicious catered lunch from Roula’s Cafe for two hours at the Orrin G. Hatch U.S. Courthouse’s Jury Assembly Room or via Zoom. The program was designed to encourage women and diverse talent to get in —and stay in—the game and to address how practitioners and organizations can act as champions in recruiting, retaining, and promoting the advancement of women and diverse talent in the legal profession.

The first hour was a Judicial Panel featuring the Honorable Carolyn B. McHugh, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the Honorable Daphne A. Oberg, Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, the Honorable Cecilia M. Romero, Magistrate Judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, and the Honorable Peggy Hunt, Bankruptcy Judge, U. S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Utah. The panel was moderated by Artemis D. Vamianakis, Fabian VanCott. The judges discussed lots of important topics and issues, including how they “got in the game” and what factors allowed them to “stay in the game” and get to where they are today. They shared their motivations for sticking around, champions in their career who helped promote their advancement, and policies that allowed them to succeed. They also addressed the discouraging lack of professionalism and civility from opposing counsel that attorneys sometimes feel, and discussed ways that attorneys can rely on the rules of professionalism and civility to push back against these situations. They rounded it off with fantastic advice for law students and young attorneys in the crowd about how to find their place in the profession, use their voice, and have the courage to stick around despite difficulties. 

The second hour was a Practitioner Panel with attorneys offering practical strategies and best practices for firms and organizations at various levels. The presenters included Tracy S. Combs, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; Christina M. Jepson, Parsons Behle & Latimer; Andrea T. Martinez, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah; Caroline A. Olsen, Zimmerman Booher; Artemis D. Vamianakis, Fabian VanCott; and was moderated by Jenifer Tomchak; Tomchak Skolout Law. The panel addressed a number of important issues, including discussions on how law firms can navigate the new climate in the wake of the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision and ensure that their diversity programs and policies are still thriving despite the legal pushback. They also discussed various programs and policies that they have seen to be effective among legal employers.  

We were grateful that so many members of the judiciary and legal profession, as well as law students and students interested in attending law school, attended and benefited from the collective wisdom and advice of the panelists. There were over 200 people listening in the room or virtually. Thank you for your support of these important topics and for everything you do to make the legal profession a more inclusive place for people of all identities and backgrounds. 

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Highlighting Utah’s Efforts to Increase Inclusion at the Federal Bar Association National Convention

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Utah and UCLI were well represented at the Federal Bar Association’s (FBA) National Convention last month in Memphis, Tennessee. A five member panel made up of Jen Tomchack (Tomchack Skolout), Ross Romero (Inclusion Strategies), Michele Oldroyd (Utah State Bar and UCLI Leadership Council), Melinda Bowen (Snow, Christensen & Martineau and UCLI Co-President), and Jon Wayas (UCLI Associate Director) delivered a CLE presentation moderated by Jon Hafen. Jon Hafen is a UCLI board member, and was sworn-in as the new President of the Federal Bar Association at the convention. The presentation was titled, “Community Engagement Efforts to Diversify the Legal Community – Examples from Utah.” The presentation was well attended and gave panelists the chance to highlight the wide ranging programs and collaborations taking place to make Utah’s legal market more inclusive and diverse.

The program began with Ross Romero painting the picture of Utah’s changing demographics, and why diversity is so important to the legal market and to the business community in Utah. Michele Oldroyd followed by recounting what is happening from the Utah State Bar perspective with rulemaking and an increased effort on attorney wellbeing and mental health. Jen Tomchack was able to show the great work the Utah chapter of the FBA has been doing to support inclusion, specifically in regards to women in the legal profession. This includes the “Staying in the Game” initiative which kicks off with a CLE event on October 5, 2023. Melinda Bowen highlighted the great work being done by affinity groups like the Utah Minority Bar Association, LGBT and Allied Lawyers of Utah, Women Lawyers of Utah, and the Utah Black Lawyers Association. Melinda, who is a founding member of UCLI, shared the story of the organization’s creation. This led into the final portion where Jon Wayas shared about a number of the great programs and scholarships UCLI is currently offering. The presentation ended with a short Q&A.

UCLI is grateful to Jon Hafen and the FBA Convention’s planning committee for giving this group the opportunity to share the great work going on here in the State of Utah. UCLI continues to have great opportunities to share and teach through Continuing Legal Education (CLE). We hope you will join us soon for the final installment of the “Pathways to Inclusion” CLE series for 2023, and the great offerings we will have available throughout 2024.

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The Utah Tribal Intern Partnership: Forging New Connections

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Under the direction of the Community Outreach Co-Chair, Cliff Parkinson, UCLI has been creating new connections with vital groups in Utah – the tribal communities in whose traditional and ancestral homelands we live and work. UCLI respects the sovereignty of Utah’s tribes and respects the unique political relationship between tribes, states, and the federal government. We hope to find new ways to work together to ensure access to legal education and legal representation for members of Utah’s tribal communities. We were honored to present at the 17th annual Governor’s Native American Summit in June 2023, as well as to attend the 30th Annual Four Corners Indian Country Conference in August 2023. UCLI especially hopes to strengthen pathway programs for Native American youth interested in the legal profession. It is our hope to facilitate pipelines to help them attend law school. To this end, UCLI is launching a new pilot initiative: the Utah Tribal Intern Partnership.

The Utah Tribal Intern Partnership pairs an intern with a legal employer specializing in Native American law. This semester, Tsosie Law PLLC has agreed to partner with us to provide relevant work for an intern. Paul Tsosie is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation – Blacksheep Clan, and an impressive legal practitioner. He focuses on Criminal Defense, Child Welfare, as well as Federal Indian Law and Policy. Mr. Tsosie has represented various different Indian tribes as general counsel and served a 3-year political appointment as the Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, Washington D.C. Working with Tsosie Law this semester is UCLI intern Sunni Begay – a member of the Navajo Nation and a first generation college graduate with a BA in Political Science and minor in Legal Studies and American Indian Studies. She is passionate about access to legal representation and has worked with various Indigenous initiatives to educate the community about Native culture and issues. 

A month into the internship, Mr. Tsosie describes his experience as very positive, as there are very limited opportunities for Native American students to gain valuable experience encouraging them to seek a future in the legal profession. Usually, Mr. Tsosie only has the opportunity to work with currently enrolled Native American law students. However, this partnership has been beneficial not only to Sunni, but to the general Native American community itself in Utah. For example, Sunni helped Mr. Tsosie prepare for a meeting with tribal leaders, lawyers, state leadership, and other community leaders regarding the potential changes and improvements to the Indian Child Welfare system in the State of Utah. Sunni’s research helped guide the group to a better understanding of what other tribes were doing across the country. 

Sunni explains that for her, this experience so far has been essential to learning about different issues in Federal Indian law, especially pertaining to Utah. She has been able to learn about the various ways the Indian Child Welfare Act has been implemented in Utah and future legislation to continue to strengthen child welfare for Native children in the state. She has also had the opportunity to gather data surrounding the Native legal community in Utah for the betterment of Indigenous legal relations with other organizations and UCLI. This internship has expanded her view on the different ways legal services can be helpful to making a positive impact on her community and other Native peoples. 

UCLI hopes in the future to expand its partnerships with legal practitioners and students from Native American communities, and to leverage the incredible strength and talent that exists in these spaces for the benefit of Utahns everywhere. If you are a legal employer and are interested in accepting a UCLI intern in a future semester, reach out to

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Meet Jehicob Torres, 2023-2024 Durham Fellow J. Reuben Clark Law School

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Jehicob is a 3L at J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. He is a first-generation Mexican American and Spanish was his first language. Jehicob was born in Provo, Utah but grew up a few minutes north in Orem. 

Jehicob’s parents inspired him to work hard and not give up on his dreams. His father worked at a frozen foods factory and his mother worked at a candy factory when they first arrived in the USA. Their example of endurance and pressing forward despite being far away from home and surrounded by a different culture and language has inspired Jehicob to keep going even when things seem hard.  

Jehicob did his undergraduate studies at Utah Valley University where he was part of the Honors Program. He also volunteered with the Latino Initiative on campus. During his time at UVU, he was part of the winning team for the 2018 Social Innovation Challenge where his team looked at the collateral consequences on children from having an incarcerated parent. This experience changed his perspective on a career choice. He wanted to advocate for people and help them navigate a complex web of legal jargon and rules. He started the Wolverine Pre-Law Association to help pre-law students study for the LSAT and connect with law schools and practicing attorneys. He is proud to say that the Wolverine Pre-Law Association continues to this day. 

During his time at the law school, Jehicob externed at the Utah Supreme Court with Justice Paige Peterson. He has also participated in trial advocacy and the moot court team. His team traveled to Phoenix and won first place at the Uvaldo Herrera Moot Court competition hosted by the Hispanic National Bar Association. He has also volunteered at the BYU Community Legal Clinic and has helped with immigration matters like adjustment of status, applying for asylum, and other matters that the community needs. It has been a blessing to help individuals and families navigate the legal system and find relief. He has also spent time advocating for change at the local level to help the community. In 2022, he helped lobby for HB222 that reduced the fee for an application and renewal of a driving privilege card. During this past General Session he helped lobby for HB102 which allowed asylees, refugees, TPS visa holders, and those with a pending permanent residency application to qualify for in-state tuition. He also worked with Senator Weiler on SB132 to allow private companies fingerprint applicants for a driving privilege card. This bill was designed to reduce the backlog at the Bureau of Criminal Identification and help streamline the application process for a driving privilege card. Each of those bills passed nearly unanimously in the legislature. 

Jehicob is currently working part time at the law firm of Trujillo Acosta in their civil litigation department. He enjoys trial work and hopes to be a trial attorney after law school. After graduating, He will go to New Jersey for a year to clerk for Judge Alberto Rivas. Jehicob is inspired by Justice Thurgood Marshall’s quote that “the legal system can force open doors and sometimes even knock down walls. But it cannot build bridges. That job belongs to you and me.” He strongly believes that the law can be used for good to build people up, to strengthen communities, and secure a promising future for everyone.

Jehicob Torres

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Meet Bree Spaulding, 2023-2024 Durham Fellow S.J. Quinney College of Law

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Bree is a 3L at the S.J. Quinney College of Law. Originally from California, she was surprised by Utah’s lack of diversity and some of the inequities she saw. This led her to pursue a career in public interest law. During her time at SJQ, she has had the opportunity to extern at the Disability Law Center and at Lambda Legal. These experiences solidified her commitment to advocating for marginalized communities. As the grandchild of immigrants and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, she recognizes the work done by those before her to create a pathway for her into the legal profession. As a Durham Fellow, she hopes to continue that work by lighting the path for other marginalized individuals.

Bree Spaulding

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Congratulations to the 2023-2024 Durham Fellows

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UCLI would like to congratulate and welcome our 2023-2024 Durham Fellows, Bree Spaulding from the SJ Quinney College of Law and Jehicob Torres from J. Reuben Clark Law School. The fellowship is named in honor of Justice Christine Durham. This fellowship is intended to help facilitate the legal education of an individual who shows a demonstrated commitment to and great potential for pushing forward the cause of justice, equity, and inclusiveness in Utah’s legal profession. Someone who, like Justice Durham, will make the legal field a better place for all who follow.

The Durham Fellowship is awarded to two law students each year (one from each Utah law school). It includes a stipend which may be used toward tuition, housing, living expenses, etc. Fellows partner with UCLI Leadership Council and staff on law school programming. We had a wealth of incredible candidates apply this fall which is a testament to the incredible work our law schools are doing here in Utah.

Please read more about Bree and Jehicob in these news articles.

We would like to thank the many individuals who have donated this year, making the 2023-2024 Durham Fellowship possible. 

Bree Spaulding

Jehicob Torres

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