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Law Student is Guest Speaker at Oregon Legal Events

April 24, 2020

  • Lewis and Clark students and faculty at the OHBA event with Diego.

Diego Gutiérrez ’21, a second-year law student at Lewis & Clark Law School, is already making an impression on the legal community. In February, Gutiérrez was invited to speak at two events in Portland about his journey as an undocumented immigrant to becoming a law school student. On February 18, 2020, he was the only non-judge panelist at an event to honor Latinx Heroes and on February 21, 2020, he spoke at the Oregon Hispanic Bar Association’s annual dinner.

“I feel incredibly grateful to share my arduous journey into law school as a former undocumented student at the Oregon Hispanic Bar Association (OHBA) 14th Annual Awards Dinner and the Gus J. Solomon Inn of Court presentation,” stated Gutiérrez.

Gutiérrez migrated with his family from Guadalajara, Mexico to California when he was 7-years old. Before attending law school he spent much of his adulthood learning how to navigate his personal, academic, and professional life as an undocumented, queer immigrant. “My interest in the law profession made me realize that underprivileged communities need legal advocates who are passionate about seeking out and breaking down the structural barriers of inequalities,” Gutiérrez stated. Specifically, his involvement with the LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights movements inspired him to pursue a career in influencing reforms in the judicial system.

Gutiérrez was a guest panelist along with the Hon. Xiomara Torres ’02, the Hon. Angela Lucero ’03, and the Hon. Angel Lopez at the Gus J. Solomon Inn of Court presentation regarding Latinx Heroes. The panelists shared their personal journey to the law profession, as well as addressing issues of inclusion and diversity in the legal community, and access to services for Latinx people. The event was organized by current Lewis and Clark student, Sara Slabisak ’21 and held at the Hotel Sentinel in Downtown Portland.

“It was daunting to share such a personal story and show vulnerability in front of a large audience of attorneys, judges, law students, and other legal professionals,” Gutiérrez said about his experience. “However, it was essential to shed light on the reality that thousands of immigrants continue to face.”

Gutiérrez was also a keynote speaker for the Oregon Hispanic Bar Association’s annual dinner on February 21, 2020. Gutiérrez was the first student speaker invited to speak at the dinner in 14 years. He gave a compelling speech that made an audience of 200+ people laugh and cry. “It was an honor to be the first law student invited by OHBA to be a keynote speaker, and the amount of support I’ve received from Oregon’s legal community has been overwhelmingly positive,” Gutiérrez said.

“Diego gave a beautifully written speech that included a personal history of his journey from coming to the US when he was a child to Lewis & Clark Law School and a call to action for the Oregon legal community to embrace and hire law students that are from backgrounds that do not have a large presence in Oregon’s legal community,” stated Professor Susan Felstiner. Felstiner was one of the many faculty, staff, and students in attendance who joined the room in giving Gutierrez a standing ovation after the speech. “The students continue to impress me with how they form community and support one another. They make the law school a truly special place.” Felstiner reflected.

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