San Diego La Raza Lawyers (SDLRLA) had its first organizational meeting in 1976 at the Pioneer Room of the San Diego County Public Law Library. It was then an unincorporated association, made up of approximately 12 attorneys (only about 5 of whom were female). The organization was formed with a desire to effect change in San Diego by representing the interests of the Latino community, identifying issues which involved the Latino community, and advocating for those issues. Presidents of the unincorporated organization were Hon. Rafael Arreola and Hon. Roy B. Cazares. The first networking function ever thrown by SDLRLA was hosted at the home of Ramon Castro, a well known criminal defense attorney.
The organization incorporated as a 501 (c)(6) in 1979 and was led at the time by President Nick Aguilar, Secretary Henry Baray and Treasurer Dan Guevara. The organization chose to become a 501 (c)(6) so that it could continue to further its goals to advance the Latino community through political activity and advocacy. After surviving the ’80s, an era where Latinos were commonly ignored for political and judicial appointments, SDLRLA realized that the only way to effect change was to demand change by engaging the political system. This led to the creation of the first political endorsement committee in the early 1990′s, which committee continues to the present.
In 2001, SDLRLA began to discuss how to increase the charitable aspect of the organization. The organization began to give out small scholarships to law students as a way to let the students know that the organization was there for them and supported them. In 2005, a separate entity and 501(c)(3) the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association Scholarship Fund was created and incorporated. From 2005 to the present, the Scholarship Fund provides scholarships to Latino students and those with ties to the Latino community. In 2011, the Scholarship Fund began also providing scholarships for prospective Bar Examination takers.
In 2021, SDLRLA created the Public Benefit Fund (PBF), a separate 501(c)(3) entity designed to create a direct bridge to the organization for our community. For the legal profession: the PBF promotes diversity and education in both the San Diego judiciary and attorney bar. For the larger San Diego Latino/a/x community and diverse peoples: the PBF promotes justice, equality, equity, and empowerment through access to justice programs, community service programs, education, leadership development, and mentorship; This includes supporting the delivery of and access to legal services to San Diego County’s Latino/a/x and Spanish-speaking community.
SDLRLA is one of 18 affiliate bar associations of La Raza Lawyers of California, a non-profit association organized in 1977 to support Chicano and Latino Lawyers in California and serve as a statewide network for local affiliate La Raza Lawyers Groups.
Nationally, SDLRLA is also an affiliate of the Hispanic National Bar Association.