This past Thursday, March 30th, four students (myself, Ariana Dideban, Lilou Redon, and Shaadi Ahmadzadeh) from New West attended the Young Women’s Leadership Conference at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Downtown Los Angeles. This conference, hosted by the Los Angeles Superior Court, aimed to provide inspiration and advice for young women interested in pursuing a legal career. We had the opportunity to hear from leading female judges with the Los Angeles Superior Court, Alameda County Superior Court, California Supreme Court, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and Immigration Court in Los Angeles.
We heard from Justice Leondra Kruger of the California Supreme Court, who was introduced by her colleague Judge Maame Frimprong. Judge Frimprong dubbed Justice Kruger a “shero”, or female hero of the legal profession. Justice Kruger served in the U.S. Department of Justice under the Obama Administration and is the youngest appointee in history to the California Supreme Court. She received her education at Harvard University and Yale Law School. Justice Kruger shared that she discovered the power of her voice and speaking up after participating in speech and debate in high school. She sees it as her duty to uphold and be faithful to the laws that the people–through elected legislators–have enacted. While working for the federal government, she argued twelve cases in front of the Supreme Court. Justice Kruger stated that it took immense amounts of preparation and was initially terrifying to argue in front of the highest court in the country. She remarked that once she began arguing, she realized that she was doing what she was supposed to be doing and could survive. When asked to give her advice to young women, Justice Kruger expressed that it’s okay to be scared (especially if the reason for the fear is worthwhile) because fear is a motivator. Fear is something to embrace because it encourages harder work. She noted that few mistakes are so severe that they cannot be overcome, distractions are part of the journey, and time management is part of education. To conclude, Justice Kruger highlighted skills she deems crucial to success in the legal profession, including writing, public speaking, critical thinking, research skills, and a strong academic background.
Justice Lee Smalley Edmon–the first woman to hold the position of Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court–led a panel discussion with Judges Ashley Tabaddor, Dalila Corral Lyons, and Jacqueline Nguyen. These three judges are all immigrants who came to the United States as children without speaking any English. They each shared sage advice with the future generation of professional women. Judge Tabaddor explained the importance of networking and financial independence. She also reminded us to appreciate and protect our precious U.S. justice and political system. Judge Lyons emphasized how crucial it is to have diversity in the court system to strengthen the confidence people have in court decisions. Judge Nguyen touched upon the significance of diversity, not only in skin color and gender, but in life experiences and viewpoints. Other speakers included Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte of the Alameda County Superior Court, who was raised in an impoverished area as one of eleven children. Her advice to young women was to risk, dream, and work more.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis made the closing remarks of the day. She enjoined the young women in the room to never lose that “fire in the belly” that motivates us to achieve and become women of distinction. Throughout the conference, the consistent advice was to work hard. All of the speakers and panelists stressed that there is nothing standing in our way to achieve great things and become who we want in life. There are no barriers that are impenetrable nor obstacles that are insurmountable. Anything we want to do is within our grasp; the only requirement is hard work.