Addressing the crowd at this year’s LMU Loyola Law School (LLS) orientation, Kenny Ramirez, J.D. ’14, shared three simple words to guide incoming students through the challenges ahead: community, grit, and selflessness. Instead of viewing classmates as competitors, he encouraged students to consider one another as family – interdependence, he advised, is the key to individual and mutual thriving.
This advice takes on new significance coming from Ramirez, whose career has been shaped by a whole-hearted commitment to empowering others. The private practice he founded, the Law Office of Kenny S. Ramirez, has an unusual quality – it truly is a family business. “My family story informs everything that I do,” said Ramirez.
His sister Sharon Ramirez, J.D. ’21, a fellow LLS alum, is an attorney at the firm, and their parents are also part of the team. “When I graduated from LLS, there was no question in my mind that I wanted to work for Kenny,” explained Sharon Ramirez. “Growing up as part of a family of immigrants, we really had to rely on each other – and that strengthened our bonds as siblings. We both know that what it means to be an attorney is to care for others. And where did we learn that ethic of care? From our parents.”
As soon as he established his own firm, Ramirez made it a priority to give back. “I didn’t want to wait for some benchmark of financial success before I helped out,” he said. “I thought – what if I make this a part of who I am, and part of the culture of the office from the very beginning?” His designations for the gift are deeply personal. Part of the funds will be directed toward an annual scholarship to support LLS students who are current DACA recipients, or who have experienced being undocumented in the past. The gift will also establish an annual award to celebrate the achievements of a student on the nationally ranked Byrne Trial Advocacy Team – notably, a student who didn’t make the cut to participate in the first round of competitions, but whose hard work and perseverance brought them back up to the top.
The designations for the gift connect the lawyer Ramirez is now with the student he once was. The undocumented student who would make the long commute from the Inland Empire by train, bus, and subway, and who could barely afford the books on his syllabus. The talented young public speaker, who made the Byrne Trial Advocacy Team – and was sorely disappointed when he wasn’t initially selected to compete. Ultimately, his tenacity carried him through. Although his immigration status prevented him from applying for federal financial aid, he secured enough private scholarships to graduate without debt; likewise, by embracing the practical wisdom of a growth mindset, he soon found himself competing with the best as part of the Byrne Trial Team. “Growing up undocumented, I suppose I knew that the odds were stacked against me,” said Ramirez. “But I couldn’t afford to feel anxious. I had to keep an open mind so that I could recognize opportunities when they came my way. That’s a pragmatic attitude I learned from my parents – they taught me that every disadvantage has a hidden advantage.”
Ramirez admits to being something of an “eternal optimist” – a superpower that has allowed him to weather the storms – but he realizes that not everyone is blessed with that steely straightforwardness. “If I can give others that extra boost, just lighten the burden for them a little, then I can help them to look beyond the obstacles of the present and motivate them to push forward and achieve their goals,” he said. “As part of my gift to the trial team, I’d love to take the students out to lunch or dinner – to encourage them when they’re at their lowest. Just to say, ‘I’ve been there.’”
Ramirez also engages with students as a board member of the Loyola Immigration Justice Clinic (LIJC), part of the integrated Loyola Social Justice Law Clinic, which provides students with hands-on practical experience through dedicated pro bono work. “LLS is very much invested in immigrant rights issues, and we’re committed to opening pathways for undocumented students,” said Marissa Montes, director of LIJC. “Kenny understands the struggles these students are going through, and he knows that they’re just as deserving to be part of the legal community.”
Having personally benefited from scholarships, Ramirez knows his gift will make a significant difference. “When I was a student, even just a few hundred dollars of support meant the world to me. One of the incredibly gratifying things about LLS is that they celebrate any amount you’re in a position to give – they know that you give from the heart, and they can help you to strategize the most impactful use of the funds.” As his gift suggests, the greatest impact is achieved not from personal endeavor, but through what you can facilitate in others. And perhaps that’s the secret of Ramirez’s success; the ability to look beyond current circumstances and envision the scope of possibility. Maybe it comes down to grit. Or community. Or selflessness. For Ramirez, those three words combine into one: family.
To learn more about supporting LMU Loyola Law School, contact Jamal Barakat, director of development, at email@example.com, 310.568.7148. You can also support student scholarships and the Byrne Trial Advocacy Team Scholarship here.