Oct. 28, 2020 – University of Miami School of Law Dean Anthony E. Varona discussed diversity and inclusion as a strength with University of Houston Law students in a talk last week titled, “Navigating the Legal Field as a Diverse Student.” Varona provided insight into how his experiences as a gay, immigrant, Latinx legal professional have shaped and influenced his work.
“What we initially perceive as a limitation ends up being our superpower,” Varona said. “Being a minority, an immigrant, openly LGBTQ, or another underrepresented minority in the legal field can be difficult, but “oftentimes these differences deepen our understanding of the world and compassion for others and make us especially good lawyers.”
The event was hosted by the Latinx Law Students Association, a student organization serving as a resource for social and academic support for the greater Latinx community, and it was moderated by Julio Gonzalez, a Law Center 2L and the current president of OutLaw.
Varona said diverse attorneys often have a different worldview, and their experiences, perspectives, and opinions on legal issues are heightened by challenges they have faced. The pressures of underrepresented minorities cultivate a sophisticated judgment and a unique ability to connect with others and express their needs.
“Studying law as a student of color at times and in some circumstances can be traumatic in and of itself,” Varona said. “The first year can be particularly harsh insofar as it is an introduction to a legal system that has been used to perpetuate racism and other forms of discrimination.”
Varona recommended finding assistance in minority professors and deans of color because there will be connections in life experiences but also going beyond the bounds of race and gender to grow cross-cultural and cross-identity solidarity.
“Our job, at its very core, is to build society,” Varona said. “Our job is to maintain the scaffolding that keeps society running and cross-diversity alliances are key in achieving that goal.”