“By any standard, Los Abogados, Arizona’s Hispanic Bar Association, is a successful and unique bar association built not only on professional relationships among members, but also a commitment to serving the community and to the advancement of Latinos in Arizona. In just four decades, we have made great strides in promoting diversity in the legal profession, encouraging higher education in the Latino community, and advocating for the rights of Latinos,” says organization President Judith E. Dávila, Esq.
Founded in 1976 and incorporated in 1988, Los Abogados’ members include private and public attorneys, judges, community and business partners, paralegals and law students. Members practice throughout Arizona, and serve as officers and directors of county, state, and federal bar and civic associations. Los Abogados is also an affiliate member of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA). Today, Los Abogados has more than 200 active members, including skilled lawyers and generous community partners who share a profound commitment to create positive change in the Latino community. Now entering its 43rd year, Los Abogados is larger, more influential, and more engaged and inspiring than it has ever been, Dávila says.
Now entering its 43rd year, Los Abogados is larger, more influential, and more engaged and inspiring than it has ever been, Dávila says.
The founding members of Los Abogados were focused on increasing the number of Latino attorneys by building relationships and increasing their visibility and voice.
To increase the number of Latino attorneys, Los Abogados began raising money for law school scholarships. In 1988, Los Abogados created the Hon. Valdemar A. Cordova Scholarship, in honor of Arizona’s first Latino Federal Judge. The scholarship efforts developed into a broader goal to raise funds for endowed scholarships to ensure that they would be awarded in perpetuity. In 2015, Los Abogados achieved a decades-long goal. and created and funded a $100,000 endowment at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, and through additional donations, this scholarship has grown.
In 2018, Los Abogados achieved the second phase of this goal, funding a $100,000 endowment at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers’ College of Law. The scholarships are awarded to students who are active in and supportive of the Latino community, to alleviate the financial burden on students, and to hopefully inspire them to later pay it forward by continuing to support future law students and the Latino community.
These scholarships are funded by the generous support raised through the annual Spring Golf Tournament, and the Annual Fall awards Gala, both of which are wellreceived by all attendees and sponsors. In 2018, Los Abogados re-launched its Foundation, originally established in 2012. The Los Abogados Foundation established its separate Board of Directors, and looks forward to providing donors the benefit of contributing to a 501(c)(3) organization. Los Abogados also looks forward to expanding the education and scholarship programming through its new partnership with the Foundation.
In addition to scholarships, increasing diversity in the profession requires mentorship. In 2017, Los Abogados commenced the annual Los Abogados LSAT Fellowship Program, which provides 10 aspiring lawyers with a Kaplan LSAT prep course and mentorship through the law school application process. This mentorship program is critical to increasing the pipeline of diverse attorneys to the legal profession. Once an individual becomes a law student, Los Abogados continues assisting students successfully navigate through law school and transition to the practice of law. At the start of each semester, Los Abogados pairs interested students with attorney mentors. Often, these connections develop into strong professional and personal relationships that last well beyond the law school years. Los Abogados continues to expand its reach to the undergraduate, high school, and even middle school level to provide programming and inspiration to diverse students to consider a career in law, who might not otherwise be exposed to Latino lawyers.
Los Abogados’ goal of increasing diversity does not stop in the schools; the effort continues as it provides support for attorneys who are interested in serving as judges. The Los Abogados Appointments Committee is dedicated to identifying and encouraging attorneys to apply to be judges and to serve in other leadership roles in the government and legal community, providing regular programing to demystify the judiciary and application process, being active in the committees and commissions involved in the appointment process, and to providing members’ support and even mock interviews through the application process.
The Los Abogados Civil Rights and Legislative Committees have focused in many areas over the years, responding to the needs of the community. More recently, Los Abogados partnered with the ACLU to provide a free clinic on how to obtain legal compensation for members of the immigrant community victimized by MCSO’s unlawful raids. In response to the family separation crisis, Los Abogados developed a mentorship program through which immigration attorney members mentor nonimmigration pro bono attorneys on actual asylum cases. The Legislative Committee is a voice for our community at the State capitol, and is proud to have had its first bill signed into law in 2017 (SB 1422). Los Abogados continues to be actively involved in the policy-making processes that impact the community.
In addition to advocacy and philanthropy, one could almost forget that Los Abogados is a bar association. It hosts regular luncheon CLE programming on legal topics of current interest, and regular social and family events for members to connect and mingle. While it functions like many other bar associations, it is certainly unique in the impact it is making in the legal community and greater community in Arizona. The tremendous work of Los Abogados has not gone unnoticed. In 2018, Los Abogados received the Diversity and Inclusion Award by the Arizona State Bar, and the Affiliate Organization of the Year Award from the HNBA (also awarded in 2009 and 2010).
“We are a relatively new organization, but our achievements are a testament to the organization and to the many students, attorneys, judges, firms, and community partners at large who support our mission,” Dávila says.