Women of LEAD

Legal Education Association for Diversity (LEAD) is a pre-law organization at UCSB, aimed to provide little to no cost resources so that curious individuals from all backgrounds can decide whether or not they’d like to go to law school. We try to make the law school application process as painless as possible by providing our members with academic and professional development workshops, guest speakers, LSAT preparation workshops, and annual law school shadowing trips. While we get down to business, we also engage in building a community through socials, community service events, and other bonding opportunities. I currently serve as the Co-Chairperson alongside Sydney Leigh Martin, and cannot be more proud to head such an amazing organization. I decided to spotlight several board members and general members, who identify as women, to reflect on their experiences in LEAD and what it means to pursue a legal field. My goal in showcasing these powerful and driven women is to empower others who are interested in pursuing a higher education. If any of you have questions about LEAD, please feel free to reach us at [email protected]

 

1) Sydney Leigh Martin

Image Courtesy of Sydney Leigh Martin, photographed by Andres Tello 

  • Sydney is a fourth year, majoring in History and minoring in Professional Writing (Professional Editing Track) 
  • Sydney joined LEAD in the first quarter of her sophomore year. She knew that she wanted to be a lawyer, but didn't know where to start. Luckily, becoming a LEADer and attending the workshops helped her solve her dilemma quickly. She became even further involved in the organization when she was elected as the Academic Development Chairperson during her third year, and put on outstanding workshops that helped our members understand the importance of academics and the LSAT in the law school application process. She now serves as our honorary Chairperson and just finished applying to law school!  
  • Her favorite part of LEAD is the community of people. According to Sydney, “Being able to laugh, study, stress, and/or just be happy with a group of diverse, like-minded individuals is amazing. I really found my home away from home in LEAD, and for that I am eternally grateful.”
  • She wants to go to law school in order to represent underrepresented students in the public education system. Through her own personal experiences and those of her close family members, she has noticed the systemic issues occurring in these schools; most notably, implicit bias. She wants to ensure that kids have a voice. She has demonstrated her passion towards this cause by serving as a Tutor and Mentor for the UC Office of Education Partnerships, by tutoring middle schoolers and high schoolers in Goleta, and also interning at Children Now while studying for the LSAT. Sydney is interested in pursuing either education law, juvenile law, or constitutional law.
  • In response to whether or not stereotypes about women in the legal profession has discouraged her from pursuing a career in law, Sydney responded by saying, “All of the women lawyers I've met thus far are amazing and strong individuals. If I have heard any stereotypes, my brain has immediately rejected them because I know what is true. Nothing can discourage me from pursuing a legal career and especially nothing pertaining to ignorant stereotypes surrounding my gender, race, and upbringing.”

2) Kayla Rivera 

Image Courtesy of Kayla Rivera 

  • Kayla is a first year, majoring in Philosophy (Public Policy and Ethics). 
  • Kayla decided to join LEAD in order to get a sense of what pursuing a legal career entails. She is interested in pursuing a dual degree, a JD/MBA.
  • Her favorite parts about LEAD are interacting with intelligent and driven people and getting exposure to the field. She feels that networking with others is extremely beneficial no matter what field anyone enters.
  • She believes that the legal profession is most suited to her personality since she is driven, organized, and self-motivated. Kayla is always trying to keep herself busy and “thrives off of stress.” She also believes that being a lawyer is in itself a challenge, which she is not afraid to face.
  • As of now, she is unsure of which field of law that she’d like to practice. But, she definitely has time to really explore the different types of law and should keep her options open.
  • In response to whether or not stereotypes about women in the legal profession has discouraged her from pursuing a career in law, Kayla responded by saying, “Not at all. I believe that women are just as capable as men! I am in no way discouraged from becoming a lawyer. If anything, I am encouraged by all of the amazing women I am surrounded by!”

3) Gina Rue 

Image Courtesy of Gina Rue 

  • Gina is a second year, double-majoring in Political Science and Philosophy. 
  • Gina decided to join LEAD after speaking about her interests in law with her supervisor at the Annual Fund, Alicia Hernandez. She wanted to join a pre-law organization, but didn't know whether or not to join LEAD or the pre-law fraternity, Phi Alpha Delta. Based on what Alicia told her, she decided to join LEAD since it seemed more community-based, laid back, and more cost-effective. Gina also mentioned that recently she has been having some doubts about whether or not law is the best field for her, since it's notorious for being stressful and time-consuming. She wants to see if LEAD can reinvigorate her passion in law. By surrounding herself with driven and like-minded people, she believes that being in the same space may in fact inspire her to pursue a legal career.
  • She is astonished by the fact that LEAD has been able to provide a lot of these workshops to students for free. She truly enjoys the community-building aspect of the organization as well.
  • Gina had always wanted to be a lawyer since she was 10 years old. She doesn't remember exactly what prompted her interest, but has always been set on becoming a lawyer. She believes that she may not have had the best understanding of what a lawyer was at that young age, but was particularly interested in pursuing either family or criminal law.  
  • Gina never believed that her identification as a woman of color would impede her in any way from pursuing a career in the legal field. However, after attending panels and speaking to women in the field, Gina was not afraid to admit that some of their remarks have been quite discouraging. Last summer, she talked to two Korean-American women who practiced both family and criminal law. They both mentioned how being a woman in litigation and the courtroom was difficult in certain aspects. At times, it feels patronizing when individuals question their abilities and make sexist remarks because they are young Korean women. One thing that stood out to Gina was that one of the lawyers noticed that some female lawyers played on these ridiculous gender standards of a woman being “ditzy and inexperienced,” and strategically acted “ditzy” outside of the courtroom and put their game face on in the courtroom in order to win cases. Gina has felt that while these negative thoughts have lead to some doubts about entering the field, she plans to keep an open mind and hopes that LEAD can reignite that spark and passion for law that she had when she was younger. After talking with Gina outside our interview, she told me that surrounding herself with the LEAD members who are also interested in applying to law school, and the amount of resources that are out there to help conflicted students like herself, has given her more confidence and comfort.

4) Yitzel Jimenez 

Image Courtesy of Yitzel Jimenez 

  • Yitzel is a third year, double-majoring in Political Science and History.
  • Yitzel decided to join LEAD to learn more about the legal field and law school application process. Throughout high school, she would tell everyone she was going to attend law school, despite not knowing the process it entailed and the necessary requirements. She mentioned that “LEAD offers various academic workshops and resources that have taught me so much about the law school application process.”
  • Her favorite part of LEAD is getting to know students who she shares similar background and career goals with. Through LEAD, she has met wonderful people that have inspired her to not give up in pursuing a career in the legal field. She says, “Whether it’s in study hours, law school trips, or seeing each other in class, sharing our struggles and individual experiences at UCSB has served as motivation. I'm so grateful for the support I have received from this organization.”
  • Yitzel says that law has always been a possibility that she's considered, but it wasn't until she attended UCSB that she became set on pursuing a career in the legal field. She learned about the amazing work a lawyer can do, and the impact they make on the lives of many. While attending the For People of Conference with LEAD at Pepperdine School of Law, a professor told her that “We are guardians, guardians of the Law. We need more people in this field that are representative of the communities it affects the most.” Yitzel is most interested in practicing Immigration Law because immigration policies deeply affect her family and community. After law school, she plans to return to her hometown in Los Angeles to do pro-bono work.
  • In response to whether or not stereotypes about women in the legal profession has discouraged her from pursuing a career in law, Yitzel states that “The small percentage of women of color in the field have motivated me to continue pushing forward. It is up to us to push for representation in the legal field. I want to show future generations of undergraduate women of color that is is possible to defy the statistics and obstacles we have to face in our journey towards a legal career.”

5) Shelsea Sanchez 

Image Courtesy of Shelsea Sanchez 

  • Shelsea is a second year, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Labor Studies. 
  • Shelsea attended the first meeting and decided to become more active after noticing how many people of color are in the organization. Seeing so many individuals from different backgrounds gave her some comfort. In addition to LEAD, she is the Co-Chairperson for MUJER (Mujeres Unidas por Justicia, Educacion y Revolucion).
  • Shelsea has enjoyed the workshops that LEAD has put on. She says that a lot of them have provided not only particular insights towards applying to law school, but also “go out of the realm of law school” and teach individuals topics that they can use no matter what professional career they decide to pursue. She gave the example of our Voter Education Workshop, where we broke off into groups to discuss the pros and cons of the propositions that were being put to vote on Election Day. Whether or not you decide to attend law school, she believes that conducting research and engaging in critical thinking skills is essential.
  • She's been mostly motivated by the struggles of her parents, extended family, and her community. As undocumented immigrants, her parents never received access to opportunities and resources. Her father is a maintenance worker and her mother cleans houses. The hostile attitudes and xenophobia towards immigrants has inspired her to practice immigration law. She also says, “If I can make it to law school and do what I intend to do, I can have the resources and ability to help the immigrant community and bring them resources, helping them to uplift the community too.”
  • In response to whether or not stereotypes about women in the legal profession has discouraged her from pursuing a career in law, Shelsea says that she uses these negative stereotypes, especially towards women of color, as motivation. At times, it can be discouraging and she asks herself the same cycle of questions: "Am I meant to be here? Am I good enough to get to law school? Can I, as a woman of color, make it?" Overall, pursuing the legal field is empowering for her. After graduating from law school, she hopes to serve as a role model to other young women of color and reassure them that they all can make it too.

6) Kemberly Lopez 

Image Courtesy of Kemberly Lopez 

  • Kemberly (Kem) is a third year, double-majoring in Political Science and Environmental Studies. 

  • Kem decided to accompany her friend Dani to the first LEAD meeting after winter break. The icebreaker involved everyone introducing themselves and talking about what they did over the break. She mentioned how everyone was so funny and that the officers were friendly and approachable. After attending a few more meetings and engaging during the events, she finally found something that she wanted to be a part of. She soon became an Active Member in her first quarter of LEAD and received the award for the most study hours! Kem currently serves as the Community Service Chairperson for LEAD, and has helped put on three different events for our LEADers to engage in volunteer work for the betterment of our Isla Vista community.

  • Her favorite part of LEAD is being able to come together with people who come from a similar background, and who all have the desire to help make change in the world. She goes on further to say, “The legal field needs more diversity, and in a perfect world, the legal field would look more like LEAD. Everyone is extremely motivated and that helps remind me why I want to pursue a legal career. The fact that the resources that LEAD provides are free is also a major key.”

  • She wants to go to law school because she knows that this endeavor will push her farther than anything else thus far in her life. She's aware of the sacrifices she must make in order to succeed in law school, and strongly believes that it will help her grow by putting her in unchartered territories. Kem is very passionate about the environment and believes that someone needs to become an advocate, so she is set on practicing environmental law. However, she is also interested in pursuing immigration and constitutional law.

  • In response to whether or not stereotypes about women in the legal profession has discouraged her from pursuing a career in law, Kem says, “I always try to be positive. I don't let people tell me I can't do something. I view stereotypes as motivation because there is strength in being underestimated. If someone undermines me, it just fuels my desire to prove them wrong because I know I am capable. I know that I don't have to prove myself, but I want to be able to show and represent women of color in the legal field and inspire future generations. I want them to be able to see a legal field that looks more like them and can understand their backgrounds, struggles, and intersectionalities.”

7) Reema Moussa

Image via Reema Moussa 

  • Reema is a third year double-majoring in Global Studies and Communication.
  • Reema got the notification to take part in LEAD through the Pre-Law listserv. After reading our mission statement that aimed to promote diversity in the legal field, she decided that the organization was right up her alley. As an Arab woman, she appreciated how LEAD has been able to encourage underrepresented students, like herself, to pursue the legal field.
  • While she has yet to attend our general meetings and some of our events, she appreciates all the services we provide to our members. Particularly, she finds the LSAT preparation workshops and events are an excellent way for individuals to get at least some exposure to the daunting and challenging test. She is also a member of UCSB’s Model UN, which she enjoys and considers a perfect way to practice her public speaking and debate skills.
  • During high school, Reema joined debate and familiarized herself with both domestic and global issues. She realized that she was passionate about fighting some global issues, including global poverty, refugee crises, women’s rights around the world, and climate change. From then on, Reema decided that attending law school was the best way for her to become well-versed in specific facets of the law. She is particularly interested in pursuing international law.
  • During a Communication class with Professor Abra from the Sociology Department, she learned about the stereotype threat and how it negatively impacts women on their LSAT scores. Reema uses these stereotypes as motivation to actually continue onwards with her pursuits; she aims to overcome these stereotypes. She claims, “My hope would be that women, women of color especially, don’t feel that anxiety of having that stereotype as a burden on their shoulders. My hope would be to contribute to eliminating that. I plan to serve as a role model for other girls. I want them to know that I can look like this...and be a successful lawyer. And SO CAN YOU.”

8) Kristina Ruvalcaba 

Image Courtesy of Kristina Ruvalcaba 

  • Kristina is a fourth year majoring in History with a minor in Labor Studies.
  • Kristina joined LEAD because she has always been interested in serving as an advocate for underrepresented communities. Last year, Kristina and her best buddy Chelsea always posted on LEAD's Facebook page, asking other members to join them for study hours; they still do to this day! In addition to being a devout member of LEAD, she serves as the Labor Director for UCSB Lobby Corps, and is a member of the United Students Labor Action Coalition (USLAC) to fight for student workers’ rights on campus. She is also working on her Senior Honors Thesis in the History Department, under the supervision of Dr. Nelson Lichtenstein.
  • She describes LEAD as an organization that not only prepares us for law school, but also serves as a way for like-minded individuals to get through school and engage in community outreach.
  • Growing up, Kristina noticed that there was a lack of representation in her community. She observed how her parents worked diligently to ensure that she received the best education possible. In addition to caring for Kristina, her mother also took on a childcare job with long hours, often from 6 AM to 9 PM, and without benefits. Her father, who had received his certification as an electrical engineer in Mexico, started off in gardening and construction. For him, he navigated through a series of obstacles while working, including not getting paid well for the amount of work put in and having to deal with supervisors who did not care about their workers. When Kristina's parents came to the United States, she explained that “Their education was not valued, but their labor was.” She also notices how some individuals put their health at risk just to put food on the table for their families. Seeing these injustices in the labor force inspired her to go to law school to potentially explore labor law, because she believes that everyone should have their voices heard in the workforce and should know their rights, whether they are working in an office or in a field.
  • In response to whether or not stereotypes about women in the legal profession has discouraged her from pursuing a career in law, Kristina starts off by mentioning how, as a first-generation college student, you learn to be resilient. Her resilient attitude expanded further to her career goals to become a lawyer specializing in worker’s right. She states, “When I hear about these obstacles, challenges, and stereotypes, I acknowledge that these challenges are there. But, it’s not going to stop me. It motivates me even further to tackle on things, to break grounds for new people to come in, and continue to inspire more generations to come.”