In conjunction with the College of Law at ASU, Professor Charles Calleros and with its national partner organization, the Hispanic National Bar Association, Los Abogados has long provided guidance, inspiration, and even sophisticated training to youth who we hope will be future members of the bar. A few notable outreach activities in the Phoenix area in just the last few months provide illustration.
In December 2018, dozens of attorneys from Los Abogados and from the visiting board of directors of the HNBA joined law students to visit 45 classes at two middle schools in southwest Phoenix, whose populations are approximately 75 percent Latinx. The mentors reached nearly 1,000 students, providing interactive classes on legal method to eighth-grade students, and presentations on the attorneys’ path to their legal careers in sixth and seventh grade classes.
As a follow-up, more than 250 eighth graders from one of those schools traveled in separate groups in January and April 2019 to the state capitol to tour the legislature and hear presentations on the legislative process organized by a member of Los Abogados.
Whereas the middle school outreach program reaches hundreds of students, another mentoring program reaches a handful of high school students, but provides them with an invaluable prelaw experience that spans several months. Every November, ASU releases a moot court problem for a high school competition that will take place in March. This year the problem raised issues about reasonable cause to arrest a student in school, the scope of a student’s right to free speech in that school, and the standards for affirming or reversing a trial court’s grant of summary judgment in a civil rights suit. As an integral part of its pre-law program with the AGUILA Youth Leadership Institute, members of Los Abogados annually provide coaching for AGUILA students who plan to compete in this moot.
AGUILA is a vibrant organization that each year attracts more than 200 college bound Latinx high school students in the Phoenix area.
AGUILA is a vibrant organization that each year attracts more than 200 college bound Latinx high school students in the Phoenix area. Its mission is “[t]o empower and prepare youth for college admission and graduation through a unique approach based upon a greater cultural understanding as a guide to personal, academic and professional excellence as future leaders.” Its members meet all day Saturday once a month for educational programming, and some of them meet extra hours for mentoring associated with certain professions, from engineering to law.
The Los Abogados AGUILA Pre-law Program is intensive – an introduction to legal method, followed by weeks of studying the moot court problem, and then helping each student develop arguments for one side, and finally practicing oral argument and answering judges’ questions. As the competition nears, students and mentors begin to meet with increasing frequency, from twice a month to once a week or more.
Each year, AGUILA students have placed at or near the top of the ASU competition. More important, they gain a sense of maturity, accomplishment, and professionalism that is invaluable. The experience of mastering a legal case, dressing in professional attire, and arguing the case before attorneys posing as appellate judges is memorable at the least and at most is transformative. This year, one panel of judges stated that an AGUILA advocate was “amazing.” She and other AGUILA prelaw students will be among the future members of Los Abogados, reaching back to youth who follow in their footsteps. Marcos A. Tapia