1L Gabrielle Parris is a first generation college student who attended Loyola University and worked with refugee communities in her hometown of Chicago.
Now, she is not only attending law school, but plans to return to her work with the same communities after graduation.
1L Eliana Corona-Vasquez recently interned at Bay Area Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence Prevention Project and plans to pursue family and immigration law.
Both students received the Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarship, a $10,000 award given by the Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco to select minority students attending law schools in the Bay Area. While law schools have worked hard to include more diversity of opinions and viewpoints, minorities are still underrepresented in the legal profession. As a result, the Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarship Program seeks to balance the social injustices and financial hardships which may prevent some people from attending law school. The program was established in 1998, when all University of California schools ended race-based admissions, and seeks to ensure racial diversity in the law profession.
Both Corona-Vazquez and Parris emphasized the importance of the scholarship in reducing their law school debt burden and allowing them more choice in post-law school options.
“Receiving the Bay Area Minority Scholarship is not only helping me make my dreams of becoming an immigration attorney come true, but is also allowing me to choose the type of career I want to focus on without forcing me to solely think about how I will pay off my debt,” said Corona-Vazquez.
Professor Richard Zitrin, a Lecturer of Law who specializes in legal ethics, has funded at least five of these minority scholarships given out by the Bar Association through the Arthur & Charlotte Zitrin Foundation, named for his parents. Professor Zitrin also recently endowed a $200,000 scholarship trust named after Shanna Bradford, an attorney who received one of the first Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarships, and passed away in 2009.
Zitrin has authored three books on legal ethics and helped to draft federal and California Sunshine in Litigation Acts—which would prevent lawyers from “secretizing” information important to the public health and safety by a secret settlement agreement or stipulated protective order—a measure that has the potential for broad impact on consumer protection and safety. He is also the principal drafter of the so-called “ethics professors’ letter” to the California Supreme Court, signed by 55 California teachers of legal ethics, urging the Court to reject a series of lawyer-protective rules. On September 19, the Court rejected the proposed rules in their entirety and asked the State Bar to form a new commission, which Zitrin called “a great victory for public and pro-client accountability.”
In his pro bono efforts, Professor Zitrin attempts to choose the cases on the side of the individual against a seemingly insurmountable bureaucracy where cost is a big factor, such as Social Security and immigration cases.
The same concern for equality motivates Professor Zitrin’s involvement in the Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarship Program, which helps to ensure diversity in the classroom and the courtroom. He’s not only a donor, but he serves as the chair of the scholarship committee.
“I’m very fortunate to be in the position to contribute to these scholarships, and now to endow a second scholarship. Diversity among our lawyers is not a matter of political correctness, but far more importantly, a way of increasing the wealth of our collective experience and knowledge, making us better lawyers and better people,” said Zitrin.