New Perimeter

Our Global Pro Bono Initiative

From the field

A virtual journal from DLA Piper lawyers who work on legal pro bono projects of vital importance around the globe.

From Professor to Student in Mexico

Posted on 27 September 2011 by Omar Riojas (Seattle)

If you’d asked me in law school whether I would one day have the opportunity and privilege to teach at Mexico’s most prestigious law schools to some of Mexico’s most talented students, I would have answered “no” … emphatically! But here I was in Mexico as a part of DLA Piper’s New Perimeter project to assist in creating a sustainable pro bono culture and network in Mexico. It was an unforgettable experience. To be a quasi law professor for a couple of days, to be an ambassador of DLA Piper and, more importantly, to be an ambassador of the American tradition of pro bono service, have been highlights in my legal career.

I went to Mexico City with Renee Chantler from the Firm’s East Palo Alto office. I was honored to be paired up with her because she’s a former clinical law professor at Stanford Law School, my alma mater, and, after long admiring Renee’s work, I knew I would learn a lot by working with her.

At three different Mexican law schools (Universidad Panamericana, the Instituto Technologico Autonomo de Mexico, and Universdad Anahuac), we taught “The Intersection of Immigration and Family Law: Justice and Professional Development through Pro Bono,” a class which focused on lawyering and used my pro bono cases as a framework for analysis and discussion. While we were charged with “teaching,” instead I found myself to be the student, taking in so much about the Mexican legal system and Mexican legal education while at the same time learning from Renee’s remarkable ability to teach.

I have many great memories of our trip, from the passion and energy of those working at Mexico Appleseed to the intellectual curiosity of Mexican law professors and students. One of my best surprises was meeting several law students who turned out to be very familiar with DLA Piper’s domestic pro bono work representing clients before the Nebraska and Missouri Supreme Courts. It was humbling to hear that our work is known internationally and making a difference.

Being a part of New Perimeter’s project with Mexico Appleseed was a privilege, and we have together planted an important seed that I am confident will grow. I’m eager to learn how the Mexican pro bono tradition will be shaped by the hands and minds of young Mexican lawyers. As a lawyer with Mexican heritage, I am proud that I was able to contribute to the country of my ancestors on a cause that will benefit all Mexicans. I am convinced that as the legal pro bono culture takes hold in Mexico, it will in turn enrich the culture of legal pro bono practice in the United States. I’d say my own experience is a perfect example of how much we can learn from each other.

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