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Inspiring law students of color: Marin County attorney, civil rights supporter, adjunct professor Catalina Lozano

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Bio facts

Who: Attorney, civil rights supporter and adjunct professor

From: San Bernardino

Lives in: Marin County

Alma mater: University of California, Hastings College of Law

Read about other Latino business owners in the North Bay

D ecades ago, attorney, civil rights supporter and adjunct professor Catalina Lozano began to see the need to help Latino law students early on.

“When I went to law school at UC Hastings, the only brown faces I saw were pushing brooms and emptying garbage cans. There are still few Latino educators there now. That’s the reason I teach at UC Hastings,” said Lozano.

Since joining the University of California, Hastings College of Law, faculty as an adjunct professor in 1982, Lozano has taught many classes, including legal writing, trial advocacy, an orientation to trial practice, and moot court, a first-year class in which law students take part in simulated court proceedings.

In 2000, Lozano started mentoring Latino law students in speaking skills and bar exam prep.

She has an infectious way of teaching that gets everybody excited about what they’re learning.Nicholas Gonzalez, former student

“I also serve as the faculty adviser to the UC Hastings La Raza Law Students Association and the coach for UC Hastings’ Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) moot court team,” said Lozano.

Nicholas Gonzalez, a third-year law student at Stanford Law School and a former student of Catalina Lozano, said Lozano wants to help students of color reach their full potential.

“She has an infectious way of teaching that gets everybody excited about what they’re learning. The way she helps law students reminds me that I too have to pay it forward for others. For example, she is always willing to take time out of her busy schedule to write letters of recommendation for her students. Thanks to her generosity, I’ve been able to win several scholarships to defray the costs of law school,” said Gonzalez.

Cindy Muro, a third-year law student at UC Hastings and currently a teaching assistant for Lozano’s legal writing class, took Lozano’s 2018 moot court class. Muro recalls being very excited the first time she walked into Lozano’s classroom.

“I was so happy when I saw her name, to realize I had a Latino professor. She was so welcoming and helpful,” said Muro.

She said Lozano “takes students under her wing,” giving them a safe space to practice speaking at the podium.

“She’s well-respected and well-loved by the La Raza community throughout the San Francisco Bay Area,” said Muro.

Judge Sheila Shah Lichtblau, a Marin County Superior Court judge, is of South Asian and Puerto Rican descent.

Lichtblau, who attended UC Hastings, recalls Lozano walking around the room during student and lawyer gatherings to sign up law students to be mentored and receive bar prep assistance.

“She’s like the Pied Piper, with students always following her. They call her “the Profesora” (the Spanish word for “teacher”). Because of her, students have gotten their first jobs and internships. She’s been incredibly inspirational to Latino students,” said Lichtblau.

Coming to San Rafael

I remember discussions to further the understanding of Chicano identity.Catalina Lozano

Lozano, who is originally from San Bernardino, moved to Marin County in 1973. At the time, she had just graduated from California State University, San Bernardino. There she was part of the Chicano Movement, a late 1960s and early 1970s civil rights movement centered around Mexican American identity and empowerment.

“I remember discussions to further the understanding of Chicano identity. We marched to support the grape boycott,” said Lozano.

Bio facts

Who: Attorney, civil rights supporter and adjunct professor

From: San Bernardino

Lives in: Marin County

Alma mater: University of California, Hastings College of Law

Read about other Latino business owners in the North Bay

She arrived in San Rafael partly to be closer to her father, Alberto Lozano, now 94. A well-known local high school and junior college Spanish teacher, he taught Spanish from the 1960s to the early 2000s at Terra Linda High School, San Rafael High School, College of Marin, and City College of San Francisco.

“For years, people came up to me and asked, ‘Are you Mr. Lozano’s daughter? He was my Spanish teacher,’” said Catalina Lozano.

Soon Lozano became a paralegal at Legal Aid of Marin. There she received a pivotal suggestion from a Marin County judge.

“The judge said to me, ‘Ms. Lozano, why don’t you go to law school?’ Just about that time, I saw a flyer for law school and decided to apply,” said Lozano.

‘Go for the bargain’

When Lozano applied to law school, her mother, Estela Brown, and her father did not have the financial means to support her.

Her mother gave her important advice: “Go for the bargain.”

“There was a four-year joint degree program. You could earn a J.D. from UC Hastings and an MBA from UC Berkeley. I listened to my mother and applied,” said Lozano.

The program required long commutes and multiple overlapping deadlines. Lozano also had to complete a master’s thesis.

“My topic was comparable worth, on how women are not paid an equal amount for the same work as men,” said Lozano.

Of the seven students in the joint degree program, Lozano was the only person of color.

“In addition, at the business school, there was only one other person of color, a Native American woman. We became fast friends,” said Lozano.

Lozano was one of 25 Latino students in her entering class.

“I was recruited by the UC Hastings La Raza Law Students Association,” said Lozano.

Today, this student group defines itself as an interethnic, multicultural network for law students.

“When I was there … (the organization had a goal of getting) more Hispanics into and through law school,” said Lozano.

UC Hastings’ La Raza Law Students Association and LEOP, a UC Hastings academic support program for students from disadvantaged educational, economic, social or physical backgrounds, were critical to Lozano’s success.

“The La Raza students had our own table. We dressed alike, in ponchos. Most of us were Chicanos (Mexican Americans). We provided each other with emotional support. I remember older students giving me outlines, nutshells (guides that provide a quick, simplified summary of the law), and tips, like which professor to take,” said Lozano.

After graduation and passing the California Bar, Lozano became a bar pretester and exam reader for the California Bar.

“I’d write mock answers so that others could test the validity of the questions. I thought it was important a person of color be in the room,” said Lozano.

For Lozano, having a law degree and an MBA has proven invaluable. This is partly because for over three decades, she has operated a solo, San Rafael-based business and employment law practice.

“It (the MBA) gave me the necessary background to explain the value of my services to business owners. I try to be very cost-effective and honest. I’m good at settling cases,” said Lozano.

One of her favorite examples is her “lunch meeting strategy” to explain the cost of a lawsuit.

“I draw a line down the middle of the table," she said. "On one side, I show what they could gain. On the other, I show what it will cost them to fight the lawsuit. Most of the time, I tell them to settle.”

Becoming a community leader

She’s fully understanding of the importance of sharing and celebrating the Latino community.Cecilia Zamora, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Marin

In 2013, Lozano became one of a pioneering group of attorneys who founded the Association of Latino Marin Attorneys (ALMA).

Jose Varela, Marin County Public Defender, remembers how the group got started.

“In 2013, we put the word out. Between 50 to 70 people showed up for the first meeting. There were all these hidden pockets of Latino attorneys who lived in Marin, working everywhere from Oakland to Novato. Catalina was so excited to meet everyone,” Varela said.

Lozano served as ALMA’s president between 2016 and 2017. Varela said Lozano has always been a helper and motivator for other officers.

“Catalina is a really forceful, effective leader who helps ALMA get things done. She’s helped to organize an annual event at Marin Brewing Company where we bring Latino law students at schools around the Bay Area to meet Marin County attorneys. We give them advice on how to pass the bar and move forward in their careers. She’s also helped coordinate (an immigration law clinic with) ALMA members to assist the Canal Alliance, a San Rafael nonprofit that provides support to immigrants and their families,” Varela said.

In November, the Minority Bar Coalition, a network of over 40 diverse bar associations in the San Francisco Bay Area, honored Lozano with a Unity Award for her work with ALMA.

Lozano has also assisted with other the Mill Valley Film Festival’s ¡Viva el Cine! initiative, an effort to showcase award-winning Spanish language and Latin American films. In 2017, Cecilia Zamora, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Marin and executive director of the Latino Council, invited Lozano to become a part of the Latino advisory team for the initiative. The two have served on the team together for three years.

“Catalina has helped brainstorm on marketing and outreach strategies for the initiative. These strategies have welcomed Latino audiences to many screenings at the festival. In December 2019, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce honored Catalina for this effort and her work with Latino law students by presenting her with the Héctor Cortés Community Service Award,” Zamora said.

Zamora said Lozano has been an amazing resource for Latino law students and young attorneys.

“She’s fully understanding of the importance of sharing and celebrating the Latino community. I think she’s a great role model. I love that Catalina respects and honors her culture. I appreciate that she wants to make sure other people have success,” Zamora said.

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