SALINAS, Calif. - Helping students understand the law school process. On Tuesday, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo’s Office hosted a “So You Want to Go to Law School” workshop for high school and college students.
Local attorneys shared their experiences with aspiring law students and some of the challenges they face.
"Many times young people don't know any attorneys,” said Alejo. “They're the first in their families to go to college and the first to go to graduate school and professional school so many of them are in a journey, basically feeling alone."
Alejo knows what these kids are going through. He himself struggled early on before finally graduating from the U.C. Davis School of Law.
"Sometimes the students don't know what it's like to take the law school exam, the LSAT,” Alejo explained. “What the admissions process is, what happens if they get wait listed and what does it take to prepare years in advance so they have strong applications in a very competitive world of trying to get into a good law school."
He along with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce believe Latinos are severely underrepresented in the profession.
According to the National Hispanic National Bar Association, Latino attorneys make up about four-percent of all attorneys. Latinas represent an even smaller number, less than two-percent. According to a local law association, there are about 800 attorneys registered in Monterey County. Of that, 40-50 are Latino, which represents about five-percent.
"Here in Monterey County, there's certainly very few African American, Asian and Latino attorneys, even though our county is 70% minority population," Alejo said.
One of the aspiring attorneys is Crystal Viruet, a second-year at McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. The Salinas native wants to pursue adoption or health law.
"I'm a first generation graduate with my Bachelor's degree,” Viruet said. “I didn't really have any family members or close relatives that have gone and attained high education like this."
While it may have taken her a bit longer, she’s been able to get on track through mentors she has met along the way.
Students who are still debating their futures are learning what the legal field is all about.
"My biggest fear is that you'll go and you'll do something, you'll pursue a career but you're not sure if that's what you really want to do,” said Sabria Henry Hunter, Alvarez High School student. “Or you'll pursue a career but you won't know something that a lot of other students from more affluent communities know, and then you feel like you're left out, like you don't belong. Seeing people of color pursuing careers in law and taking the steps to do that really opens your eyes, and allows you to see yourself in their shoes and see it as something more tangible for you."
The two organizations want to continue these kind of workshops. Other fields they want to cover – the medical profession, how to get a Ph. D. and the world of tech.