The Los Abogados Latina Committee is proud to be celebrating its first year. Los Abogados, however, has historically been a place where Latinas in the profession have found support from one another.
It was many years ago when member, Hon. Mary Murguía, now serving on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, formed a Latina book club that evolved in positive ways over the years. In 2004, the group started the Latina Brunch, which for many years was hosted by long-time Latina lawyer champion, Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Mina Méndez (Ret.).
More recently, the brunch has been hosted by Los Abogados board members, a Fall Reception has been added to the annual agenda, and both events have always been well-attended by law students, lawyers and judges. The brunch was my first-ever Los Abogados event as a law student. It was both comforting–as as I did not otherwise see many students or attorneys who looked like me–and inspiring to see so many accomplished and diverse women coming together as friends and mentors.
With the growth of social media, so too rose the connections amongst Latinas in the group. Commissioner Mendéz created a private Facebook group and Judge Murguía gave us an apt title: the Latina Mentoring Project. More than just a brunch or Facebook group, this network of 260 professional Latinas serves as a place to ask questions, find and offer jobs and mentorship opportunities, and even score a last-minute ticket to a networking event. It has been a place for Latinas to find and encourage one another in a profession where we are statistically outnumbered by a staggering degree.
In 2018, it became clear that Los Abogados could do more to deliberately serve the needs of our Latina members. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, we reflected critically on our own policies, and made some changes that we believe are leading toward progress. One of those changes was the formation of a dedicated, standing Latina Committee. The Committee convened and we identified areas in which we could best serve our members, and developed the following mission:
“It is the mission of the Los Abogados Latina Committee to promote the inclusion and advancement of Latinas within Los Abogados and in the broader legal profession by: (1) providing professional and leadership development; (2) providing opportunities to connect with and support one another; and (3) providing recommendations to the Los Abogados board of directors as needed.”
The Committee has planned and hosted professional networking events, including a CLE regarding harassment in the workplace in the #MeToo era, and the Latina Power Hour, which will be a regular networking opportunity hosted throughout the year. We will continue providing high quality and relevant programming, and will continue to support the Latina Mentoring Project.
In addition to forming the Committee, Los Abogados amended its bylaws to include anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies. Los Abogados is committed to providing an inclusive, open, and safe environment, and to supporting our members and any and all victims of harassment or abuse. Importantly, the Committee has made recommendations for making the complaint process more accessible and useful to members, and will continue to make important policy recommendations in various other contexts.
As a past president of Los Abogados, I am proud to I have a circle of Latinas who have been a tremendous source of support for me professionally and personally. So while the Committee itself is fairly new, the network of Latina lawyers has always been strong. I attribute this to the trailblazers who recognized the importance of and have been generous in mentoring Latinas following in their footsteps. It is upon these incredible shoulders we stand, and the reason the committee looks forward to carrying on this legacy. Ashley Villaverde Halvorson