Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

News Release

Trina Grillo Public Interest and Social Justice Law Retreat a Success at Southwestern April 03, 2014
Trina Grillo Public Interest and Social Justice Law Retreat a Success at Southwestern

On March 21 and 22, Southwestern hosted the 16th Annual Trina Grillo Public Interest and Social Justice Retreat. This two-day event served as a forum for practitioners, students and academics to discuss today's challenges to social justice lawyering.

Professor Laura Cohen, Director of Southwestern's Street Law Clinic and Community Outreach, said it was an honor to host and plan the retreat. "This year, our theme was 'Mobilizing and Utilizing Law Students in Times of Crisis,' which provided inspiration through thoughtful interactive workshops and engaging activities for students, faculty and practitioners," she said. "Law students came away feeling supported for future careers in public interest. They also developed tools and ideas to consider designing their own projects to support social justice. For those in practice, the weekend gave them the opportunity to reflect on the great work that we are all doing and join together to identify new programs that support each other, help engage our students, assist our communities and address the justice gap."

Opening Panel at the Trina Grillo RetreatThe retreat began with a screening of "G-Dog," a film about Father Greg Boyle, who founded Homeboy Industries. The film provided retreat participants with an example of a creative and successful grassroots effort to solve issues within a socioeconomically downtrodden community. A panel presentation and reception followed the film.

Fabian Debora was one of the panelists. He has been with Homeboy Industries for seven years but has known Father Greg since he was 10 years old. He spoke of his past, growing up in the housing projects and struggling with drugs and gangs. Now he's a drug counselor and resident artist. He shared there is definitely a need for lawyers and law students to collaborate with their organization to help former gang members, for example as they re-enter the workforce and need their records expunged.

Fabian Debora speaks with students following the panel
Fabian Debora speaks with students following the panel.

"The film is important because it changes the perception people have of gang members," he said. "The filmmaker (Freida Lee Mock) was sensitive to the homeboys and homegirls and how fragile they are. She put a human face on gang members.... Homeboy Industries is unique because of its simple philosophy of kinship within the community."

On Saturday morning, practitioners from public interest organizations along with faculty conducted small group discussions with current and former law students from Southwestern and many other law schools. The sessions on Saturday were moderated by Professors Beth Caldwell, Nydia Duenez, Jenny Fee, Andrea Ramos as well as professors from other participating law schools. In the afternoon, Southwestern hosted a live webinar with Equal Justice Works on "Paving your own path: pursuing public interest" and discussed fellowship opportunities as well as managing student debt.

"The event ended with an impressive Student Success Story panel highlighting law students responding to times of legal crisis," said Professor Andrea Ramos, Director of Southwestern's Immigration Law Clinic. "This panel included Southwestern alum Alison Kleaver '07 who spearheaded the 2005 Hurricane Katrina [emergency clinic] project."

The Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) established the retreat in memory of Trina Grillo (1948-1996), a law professor and dedicated social activist and justice advocate, whose life's work continues to inspire many law students, professors and lawyers who are passionate about social justice.

SALT co-sponsored the retreat with a consortium of law schools, which in addition to Southwestern, this year included: Loyola Law School, Santa Clara University School of Law, Stanford Law School, UC Irvine School of Law, UCLA School of Law, University of San Francisco School of Law, University of Washington School of Law and the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law.