On February 16, the Santa Clara Law community came together to celebrate and recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. Now in its 17th year, and back in person, the Diversity and Inclusion Celebration directly supports the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights scholarship for students. The event attracts generous support from law firms and organizations from across the country.
Dean Michael Kaufman welcomed attendees, beginning with his customary note of gratitude. He went on to say “[Santa Clara Law has] become one of the most diverse law schools in the country, and our diversity is, and always will be, one of our greatest distinctive strengths. Our commitment to an inclusive learning environment is comprehensive: reflected in the strong moral leadership, by our diverse and engaged faculty members, supportive student services, vibrant student organizations, and our network of alumni and friends.” Dean Kaufman added, “At this event, we lift up exemplars of moral beauty, people and organizations who have selflessly promoted diversity, equity, and inclusion in our law schools, our profession, and our communities.”
This year, the event honored Akshay Verma J.D. ’06 with the Social Justice and Human Rights Award, presented by Vincent Pham, Co-President of the Student Bar Association, and Legal Education Access Pipeline, Inc. (LEAP) with the Organization of the Year Award, presented by Caroline Perrino and Nicole Poirot, Co-Vice Presidents of the Student Bar Association.
During his acceptance speech, Akshay stressed the importance of intention in DEI efforts, “Sometimes the work feels endless, sometimes the progress seems stagnant, and at times it even feels like we go backwards. But recognition like this means the world and it keeps the fire burning.”
Over the past 20 years, Akshay has dedicated his professional career to bringing awareness to and championing diversity and inclusion issues. Reflecting on his work at Meta, Akshay remarked that what was most meaningful was the time spent talking through things like goals, metrics, levers, and recognition… areas where they knew they were not going to have the kind of impact they needed without intention.
He went on to highlight an example from the NFL where Kyle Shanahan, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was very intentional about his DEI efforts, resulting in there now being several minorities in leadership and high-profile positions in the NFL. An example of “walking the walk – with intention.”
Cindy Lopez, LEAP’s founder and director, accepted the Organization of the Year Award on behalf of LEAP. Cindy is a recently retired California Deputy Attorney General and Loyola Law School alumna. After personally observing an acute need to build access to law school education for groups that are underrepresented in the legal profession in Southern California, Cindy has drawn on her wealth of leadership experience in the legal arena and in the nonprofit college access field to spearhead the development of LEAP.
LEAP lives out its mission every day in the work it does. Their homepage states: “we envision a world in which the legal landscape reflects the diversity of our communities. A more diverse legal community is a more just community.”
Sr. Assistant Dean Nicole Maxwell recognized our wonderful Law Student Organizations by reminding the audience of the vital role our law student organizations play in our efforts to create a welcoming and engaging environment for all, “…as they are a direct reflection of the cultures of the student body and the strengths we celebrate…”
Representatives from a number of Santa Clara Law’s Affinity Law Student Organizations (LSOs) were in attendance: Asian Pacific American Law Student Association, Vietnamese American Law Students, Equality Santa Clara, Women & Law, Middle East North African Law Student Association, Filipino American Law Society, and Latinx Law Student Association.
On behalf of the Scholarship Selection Committee, Professor Dori Pina announced that Santa Clara Law students Nallely Montes, Kyle Perkins, Ruben Souza-Marquez, and Veronica Diaz were selected for the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights scholarship. The scholarship is directly supported by our celebration sponsors, whose generous contributions were acknowledged by Debbie Snyder, Assistant Dean of the Office of Career Management, and Jolee David, Assistant Dean of Advancement, and who helped to make this event possible: Iron Mountain, Risë Pichon BS ’73 JD ’76 and Ulysses Pichon, eBay, Hopkins & Carley, LLC, Jachimowicz Law Group, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, Laughlin, Falbo, Levy & Moresi LLP, Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, Schwegman Lundberg Woessner, Goodwin Procter LLP, Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear LLP, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, WilmerHale LLP, Norooz Clinic Foundation, Margalynne Armstrong (Associate Professor of Law), Mary J. Carlos JD ‘82, Delbert C. Gee JD ‘80, Anna Han (Professor of Law) and Daniel Klein, Caitlin E. Kaufman JD ‘05, Allen F. Moench, Mildred D. Moon JD ‘83, Deborah Moss-West JD ‘94, Eric W. Wright (Professor of Law).
Deborah Marson, EVP, General Counsel and Secretary at Iron Mountain–the event’s title sponsor–gave her remarks via a pre-recorded video: “Organizations across the globe are acknowledging the pressing need to give unwavering attention to a problem that’s lingered far too long–systemic racism.” In addressing student attendees, “you will have the chance to facilitate action, endorse change, and break down silos, to help organizations reach their potential in creating a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace.”