Loyola Law School’s Diversity Week 2023 celebrated the diversity of its campus and the legal profession with the opening of the new Multicultural Center, a talk by U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada, a diversity in Big Law panel and more.
Each year, LLS hosts Diversity Week to celebrate its student body and offer programming designed to support its mission of equity, diversity and inclusion. This year’s festivities kicked off on Monday, Sept. 11 with Affinity Homecoming, which brought back to campus alumni who had been members of such student organizations as the Black Law Students Association and OutLaw. The event was anchored by the ribbon cutting for the new Multicultural Center, which is located on the fifth floor of the Casassa Building. The new wing was designed to foster a sense of community on campus among students, faculty, and staff of all backgrounds and cultures. The Multicultural Center is open to all and will be used to keep exploring ideas of multiculturalism, and to cultivate a community that is rich in diversity, equity, and inclusivity.
At the ribbon cutting, Interim Dean Brietta Clark spoke about LLS’ proud tradition of welcoming students of all backgrounds and empowering them to use their law degrees to promote equity in their communities. But, she added, the work is never done. “A true commitment to equity means being open to being challenged by our friends in this endeavor,” Clark said.
Later in the week, an LLS alumna and other young professionals participated in the Big Law Diversity Panel, presented by Allen Matkins in partnership with the Asian Pacific Law Students Association, Black Law Students Association, Latinx Law Students Association, South Asian Law Students Association, Career Development, and Student Affairs Office.
Marissa Dennis ’06, partner at Allen Matkins, was joined on the panel by Allen Matkins colleagues Peter Griffin, partner; Anson Lam, associate; and Natalie Martinez, associate director of recruiting and professional development. The panelists discussed the topic “Steps Law Students of Color Can Take to Break Into and Thrive in Big Law.”
Diversity Week closed with a fireside chat with Martin Estrada, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. Estrada was nominated by President Biden in 2022 and has been recognized for his advocacy as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in California by the Daily Journal and among the “Top Litigators in Los Angeles,” a “Minority Leader of Influence,” and one of the “Most Influential Minority Lawyers in Los Angeles” by the Los Angeles Business Journal.
Estrada spoke about his background, education, and his current work as U.S. Attorney before a room full of students. Working on a civil rights case during an externship for a U.S. attorney near his hometown in Orange County inspired him to pursue a career as a U.S. attorney, he said.
“I said to myself: ‘This is the kind of work I want to do,’” Estrada said. “This was a practical way of helping people in their everyday lives and helping the community that I knew from growing up.”
Estrada said it’s important to him to provide avenues and opportunities for aspiring lawyers of color to succeed in the field, and he’s proud to have hired mostly female and minority staff who are very passionate about the work they do. As a U.S. attorney representing the most diverse district in the country, he and his colleagues need to reflect the people they serve.
“Especially for a prosecutorial office, it needs to reflect the community it serves because if you’re going to choose which cases to prosecute, having the judgment of being from the community is really critical,” he said.
Diversity Week’s student-led programming included the LLS Student Bar Association’s Turf Club, where students could mingle and enjoy free food and drinks, and a student organization tabling and diversity fair to introduce students to all the groups they can get involved with on campus.