Golden Gate University School Of Law

Hispanic Community October 2021 PREMIUM
A Mission To Attract Latino And Minority Students

On the U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of the most diversified law schools, Golden Gate University School of Law, based in San Francisco, California, rated in the top five that attracted the highest percentage of Hispanic students.  In fact, 30% of its entire 2020 legal class was of Hispanic heritage.

Indeed, of the 484 law students attending Golden Gate University in 2020, 278 or more than 50% were minority students.  Its student body was composed of 142 Hispanics, 155 Whites, 50 African-Americans, 50 Asians and 32 bi-racials.

Based in San Francisco, it may come as no surprise that the majority of its students, or 74% of them, hail from California.  In addition, in Fall 2020, 87% of entering students were first-generation attorneys.

The university is located on Mission Street, and perhaps that’s symbolic of its values since it’s clearly on a mission to graduate an extremely diversified class of future attorneys. Its associate dean of admissions, Paulette Palafox, noted, “We work hard at building and maintaining a pipeline for minority students, traveling on recruiting trips to regions where there are large populations of underrepresented students.”

In fact, the university is developing this pipeline of Latino students through meeting with several Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HIS).  “We have begun to create relationships with pre-law societies at these HSIs,” Palafox notes.

Moreover, she says part of its legacy is focused on “access and equity, and that community feeling is attractive to many students, especially Latinos,” Palafox says, who was raised in Los Angeles and is of Mexican heritage.

The university also partners with the Council on Legal Education Opportunity, a non-profit dedicated to expanding minority students’ access to law schools, to host events that attract Latino, minority and low-income students with the aim of preparing them for the LSAT. In the pre-pandemic days, it brought these students on campus, but of late, it has been holding webinars.

Golden Gate has also introduced a special program, Law School 101, where its admissions department speaks to area colleges and offers a primer on how to gain entry into law school.  It walks minority students through the process and explains what a law school degree can do for them.

Bringing students onto its campus is another way of welcoming them. It takes prospective students on personalized campus tours and tries to keep the groups down to five students.  After the tour is over, students, if they’re on campus, can meet with a counselor to ask more personalized questions, or do so on a Zoom call, if they’re touring virtually.

Helping students address the high cost of a legal education is another driving force. The university offers merit-based scholarships, and if students don’t obtain one at the outset, they’re reevaluated in their second year.  In fact, 75% of its students take out federal loans.

Palafox says the THEMIS Bar Review prepares students by reviewing practice tests, focusing on pre-law skills, and holding simulated exams.

Golden Gate University Law School’s graduates work at an array of firms.  Many opt to work at small law firms, but a sizable number gravitate toward working in government and public interest nonprofits.

But public service drives many of them. “Their primary reason for attending law school is they want to help another person.  That catalyst has often been personal; they want to go back into the community and help out,” Palafox declares.

In fact, many of its students, Palafox notes, are driven by a “commitment to justice.  Because so many students are looking for this environment, it adds to the community feeling and the diverse perspective and voices.”

When second-year Golden Gate Law School student, 36-year-old Jose Padron-Lemus, explored law schools, he noticed that Golden Gate’s students were more diverse than students at most other schools. When he first visited Golden Gate’s campus, he was struck by how students hailed “from all walks of life, and of all ages.”

Padron-Lemus was born in Mexico, immigrated to the United States at age two, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay area in San Lorenzo.

At Golden Gate’s orientation, he encountered several Latino students who “shared their experience and struggles and what it was like to be a first-generation law student, where they couldn’t communicate easily with their families about it,” he said.  He’s also encountered an array of Latino students from different countries, including Brazil, Peru, and Chile.

The faculty too has gone out of its way to assist him.  When his mom died of Covid last year, several law professors reached out to comfort him.

He’s also president of La Raza, an organization that provides support for Latino students, including one-on-one mentorships and tutoring. He also gets involved in cultural activities such as a Day of the Dead event.  In that capacity, he partners with the Black Law Student Association, Asia Pacific Law Student Association and Filipino American Law Society.

Padron-Lemus admits that taking out federal loans for the cost of law school was daunting.  He views it as “an investment in myself.”

He expects to pursue a career in criminal law and, after that, politics. He’s currently serving as a certified law clerk at the Louie & Jimenez firm in the San Francisco Bay area, which handles family law, tax law and criminal law.

Golden Gate University, he says, specializes in “teaching practical law.  You’re trained how to argue and practice it, and how to apply these practical law skills in actual settings through their mock trials.”

It’s a very “diverse law school.  I’ve never had to feel like an outsider,” Padron-Lemus explains. 

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