Latino Lawyers Still Few and Far Between
Latino presence in the profession of law in Philadelphia reaches back as far as the 1960s according to documents provided by the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania. Though the presence is there, many lawyers within the profession face difficulties that those before them faced in terms of getting access to the networks - and thus jobs - that their peers were taking advantage of after graduation.
Whether it be the lack of numbers or the lack of connection, many Latino lawyers are the only representatives in their firms. A 2015 study from the American Bar Association notes that the profession of law is overwhelming white, with 88% of lawyers in the nation identifying as white and only 3.7% identifying as Latino or Hispanic.
The small percentage in conjunction with the natural roadblocks and lack of access that many of the lawyers within the area may encounter, contributes to Latino lawyers still finding themselves relying on organizations such as the Hispanic Bar Association to bridge those gaps and get the opportunities they are capable of fulfilling.
And though there is a great obstacle in terms of representation and access to surmount, the history of Latino lawyers within Philadelphia and surrounding areas is filled with a great deal of achievement and excellence.
The Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania highlights Juan Silva, as one of the first Latinos admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1965. They tell the story of Silva later being joined by Silvio Sanabria who became mentors to Latino lawyers and made efforts to provide representation and a legal voice to the Hispanic community in the area.
While this need was always there, the Hispanic Bar Association was created in the 1970s as the Latino community continued to grow within the city and the Philadelphia Bar Association recognized the need to provide representation to the Spanish-speaking community.
From the Honorable Nelson Diaz, the first Puerto Rican lawyer admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar, to the Honorable Nitza I. Quinones Alejandro the legacy of Latino lawyers in the city is long and impressive. And as the younger generations follow in the footsteps of those before them, they are finding new ways to bridge the gaps, and create networks amongst themselves and their community. It is through this resilience and a keen look at the past that these budding careers only continue to excel.
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