Reflections on the First-Gen and Diverse Student Experience in Law School

Featuring Vivian Adame '17 (JD), Efaon Cobb '08, and Adriana Ochoa '07 (JD)

F1RSTS

SAN DIEGO (April 9, 2021) – On Thursday, April 8, University of San Diego (USD) School of Law alumni Vivian A. Adame, ’17 (JD), Efaon Cobb, ’08, and Adriana R. Ochoa, ’07 (JD), served on a virtual panel for admitted students on the Reflections on the First-Gen and Diverse Student Experience in Law School, moderated Mike Chavez, Associate Director of Admissions & Diversity Initiatives. Adame is the second person in her family to attend college, attending her mother's alma mater, San Diego State University, with her brother following in their footsteps – all three lifelong Aztec Fans. Cobb and Ochoa are both F1RSTS and among the 27% of first-generation law students nationwide.

First-generation students are defined as those whose parents or legal guardians have not completed Bachelor’s degrees – they are the first in their families to attend a four-year school and graduate. Many first-generation law students encounter unique challenges as they begin law school, and most attend law school with minimal guidance. 

Adame is an associate at Wilson Turner Kosmo – the largest certified women-owned law firm in San Diego – and a member of the firm’s employment law, class action, and business litigation practice groups. Her practice is focused on representing businesses in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, and wage and hour claims.

During law school, Adame was a judicial extern for the Honorable Jill L. Burkhardt of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California and worked as a research assistant to Professor Edmund Ursin. She also served as a Comments Editor for the San Diego Law Review. Adame was recognized for her involvement as the vice president of La Raza Law through her receipt of the Student Leadership Scholarship during her second and third years of law school. Adame is a USD School of Law alumni mentor and she participates as a captain for her firm in the Law Firm Challenge.

“Excitement and being overwhelmed came hand-in-hand for me in my first year of law school,” said Adame. “The time management skills I learned prior to law school really prepared me. And, I relied on what worked for me in the past with respect to my learning style as a visual learner.”

Adame also took advantage of USD’s Academic Success program and worked one-on-one with law students who performed well in the specific class that she was having challenges with and ended up receiving one of the highest grades in the class.

Cobb is a partner at Hewgill, Cobb and Lockard, specializing in employment and labor law matters including harassment and discrimination (i.e. sexual, gender based, racial, disability, sexual orientation), wrongful termination and retaliation, wage and hour matters, and the representation of unions.

While attending USD School of Law, Cobb earned a Merit Scholarship every year and was on the Mock Trial winning team of the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition, earning the distinction of West Coast Regional Champion and worked as a research assistant to Professor Orly Lobel. Cobb is a member of the Dean’s Diversity Task Force.

Cobb shared that he was not equipped for law school. He read science fiction books and wrote code as an engineer before attending law school. He relied on his intrinsic ability to think sequentially and organize information in outlines.

“You can feel left out when you hear other law students talking about family members and friends that they are reaching out to for advice and to better understand concepts. It is important to lean on your fellow students and your professors as well as identify community members to support your learning and comprehension.”  

Cobb also shared his experience with imposter syndrome and how he overcame it by following his passions and finding his purpose.  

Ochoa is partner at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP – the largest law firm in San Diego – and her practice areas include public agencies, corporate and commercial litigation, education and charter schools, and Latin America-U.S. Cross-Border. Ochoa participates in the law school’s Careers in the Law program and the incoming students’ diversity reception, and her firm participates in the Law Firm Challenge.

“I was very disciplined and come from a hard-working family,” said Ochoa. “College prepared me for the difficulty of law school. I was impressed with the volume of work and realized that I enjoyed a challenge.” She recommended study aids, case notes, and resources to synthesize and complement what you are reading. “Getting good grades is important. Go to office hours and don’t be scared to approach your professors.” 

Ochoa said, “I have found the most happiness in my career with the people I work with – camaraderie and finding your community in law school will help you have a more fulfilling law school experience.”

There is kinship and allyship in student organizations and with faculty and administrators at USD as well as local community and Bar associations with attorneys eager to connect with students. 

#ProudUSDLawF1RST

View complete list of student organizations including First Generation Legal Professionals.

About the University of San Diego School of Law

Each year, USD educates approximately 800 Juris Doctor and graduate law students from throughout the United States and around the world.  The law school is best known for its offerings in the areas of business and corporate law, constitutional law, intellectual property, international and comparative law, public interest law and taxation.

USD School of Law is one of the 84 law schools elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honor society for law school graduates.  The law school’s faculty is a strong group of outstanding scholars and teachers with national and international reputations and currently ranks 36th nationally among U.S. law faculties in scholarly impact and 22nd nationally in past-year faculty downloads on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN). The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.

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