Excerpted From: Raquel E. Aldana, Emile Loza de Siles, Solangel Maldonado and Rachel F. Moran, Latinas in the Legal Academy: Progress and Promise, 26 Harvard Latin American Law Review 183 (Spring, 2023) (121 Footnotes) (Full Document)


AldanadeSilesMaldonadoMoran.jpegIn 2015, as Visiting Scholar Dolores Atencio began work on her groundbreaking Luminarias de La Ley project, she asked Professor Solangel Maldonado, “[H]ow many Latina law faculty there are in the US?” Atencio had received a list of the 2014-2015 Latina/o Law Faculty that Professor Jennifer Chácon had compiled and was surprised that it listed only 107 Latina faculty members, a tiny fraction of the more than 8,000 full-time faculty members in the United States. After further research, Maldonado and Atencio confirmed that the number was slightly higher--there existed 127 tenured and tenure-track Latina law professors--but nevertheless, the 127 represented a miniscule 1.6% of the legal academy. They, and many other Latinas, Latinos, and other allies have wondered why there were (and still are) so few Latinas in the legal academy. This lack of Latina law professors and other professional legal educators (collectively, “professors”) in the academy (collectively, “Latinas in the legal academy,” or “LILAs”) is dispiriting. It is especially disappointing given that several decades have passed since the founding of Latina and Latino Critical Legal Theory, Inc. (“LatCrit”) and its multidimensional school of critical legal theory, scholarship, and activism and despite the numerous LatCrit and People of Color Legal Scholarship (“POC”) conferences that have provided guidance and a supportive environment to many aspiring, junior, and experienced Latinx scholars. After all, Latina law professors have been publishing critical scholarship and teaching in all areas of law for decades. Latinas also have been doing more than their proportionate share of service and other institutional work. Moreover, law schools across the country have claimed to want to hire professors of diverse backgrounds, including Latinas. So why are there so few Latinas in legal academia more than three decades after Professor and later UCLA Law Dean Rachel F. Moran so powerfully described the experience and implications of “being a society of one”?

These questions were foremost on our minds in summer 2021 when, during an email exchange on the Latinx Law Professor listserv, we learned that only three law schools currently had a Latina dean. Jenny Martinez, Dean of Stanford Law School, offered to host and provide administrative support for a workshop of Latina law professors “if a core group of volunteers wanted to form an organizing committee.” Within a week of Dean Martinez's offer, the four authors of this essay and several others, including Professor Reyes, who subsequently chaired the Planning Committee, came together to found what ultimately came to be named the 2022 Inaugural Graciela Olivárez Latinas in the Legal Academy Workshop, or GO LILA Workshop, for short.

Some may have questioned whether a workshop focusing on Latinas in the legal academy was necessary, pointing to the LatCrit and People of Color (“POC”) conferences, as well as the Latina Law Scholars Virtual Workshop Series. A workshop addressing the needs of Latinas in the legal academy, however, is indeed crucial to Latina law professors' entrée into the profession and, once there, their professional growth and continued success. Latinas have played instrumental roles in founding LatCrit and in planning and participating in the LatCrit and POC conferences. In addition, feedback received through the Latina Law Scholars Virtual Workshops is significant and beneficial. None of these convenings, however, deals exclusively with “supporting and mentoring Latinas in and aspiring to enter, succeed, and lead in the legal academy,” which is the cornerstone of the GO LILA Workshop's mission.

For years, we have yearned for a community where we could share the challenges that Latinas face, not only as women academics, or members of the Latinx community, or faculty of color (although we are all of that), but as Latina law professors. LILAs needed a space where we could provide guidance and mentorship to junior Latina colleagues, strategize to increase our representation in the academy, and encourage and support those hermanas (sisters) interested in pursuing leadership positions. Latinas also needed a space where we could share and celebrate our successes and learn how to carve out time to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally, given our multifaceted identities and responsibilities as Latina scholars, teachers, institutional and community leaders, mothers, daughters, and sisters. We applauded the successes of our African-American sisters, some both Black and Latina, who have participated in the Lutie A. Lytle Black Women Law Faculty Workshop, created sixteen years ago to provide “a support system for Black women law professors” and which has helped grow the number of Black women law school deans. We also celebrated the convening in 2021 of the Inaugural Workshop for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Women in the Legal Academy. We envisioned creating a similar support system for Latina law professors.

Creating a community requires that we get to know the people who will join that community. To that end, Part II of this essay provides a brief overview of who we are, where we come from, and what we teach and write. Part III highlights the teaching and scholarship aspects of the Workshop. The Workshop created a safe space to discuss the challenges we face as Latinas in the classroom and provided strategies to address these challenges. In addition, the GO LILA Workshop provided opportunities for all participants to share their scholarship, regardless of its stage of development. Part IV describes this session and the lessons we learned. The GO LILA participants are an accomplished group, and Part V describes the roles these participants have undertaken in the legal academy and the recognition they have attained. Part VI concludes by highlighting what we learned from our work as members of the Planning Committee and from the participants so that we as a community may continue and accelerate our progress as we build upon the promise of this Inaugural GO LILA Workshop.

[. . .]

1972 marked our beginning as a community of Latina full-time legal educators in the United States, including Puerto Rico. At the outset, there was only one of us: Professor Graciela Olivárez, who served on the University of New Mexico School of Law faculty from 1972 through 1975. In the early 1980s, there were only two Latinas among the country's twenty-two Latinx law professors. Some forty years later, the Inaugural GO LILA Workshop organizers identified 190 LILAs, as of April 2022.

The insights, lessons, and community that we gained through the Workshop provide a strong foundation for carrying out our continued mission through the next GO LILA Workshop. One important lesson that we all knew, but was reaffirmed in the Workshop is how much we rely on her-mandad (sisterhood) to sustain us and to remind us of our individual and collective power. During the Workshop, we cried and we laughed together. We felt seen and elevated, and not alone. We also affirmed that we matter and matter greatly and that we make an enormous difference. It was so gratifying to learn about the accomplishments of LILAs in the Workshop and remember those who have left us. We ensured that our celebration of each other's accomplishments, however, did not sweep under the rug the personal struggles and the institutional challenges we all have experienced. We also reminded each other that, individually and collectively, we are more than adequate to address the struggles and challenges, and we affirmed our unity, uniqueness, and worth in our callings and profession.

Planning is now underway for the Second Annual GO LILA Workshop, again hosted by Stanford Law School and planned as an in-person event on May 30-31, 2023. Further efforts are underway to identify all Latinas in the legal academy, including those who are fellows and visiting professors. That outreach should enhance the pipeline of Latinas seeking full-time permanent employment in the legal academy. The community now stands at 256 LILAs.

The progress that Latinas in the legal academy have made since Professor Olivárez first took to the lectern in 1972 is demonstrable and a source of pride at the pioneering fortitude, intense dedication, and intellectual power and creativity of our community. We hope to give stronger and more collective voice to increasingly claim our rightful places in the legal academy and beyond. With the growth and impact of Latinas in the legal academy and counting, our progress and promise are clear.


Raquel E. Aldana, Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law.

Emile Loza de Siles, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Hawai'i at Mânoa William S. Richardson School of Law.

Solangel Maldonado, Associate Dean for Faculty Research & Development and Eleanor Bontecou Professor of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law.

Rachel F. Moran, Distinguished and Chancellor's Professor of Law, UC Irvine School of Law.