In 1971, Mario G. Obledo moved to San Francisco from San Antonio, Texas when the National Headquarters of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) moved here. Mr. Obledo found it was almost impossible to find five Latino attorneys in one place. More Latino attorneys were needed, and the best way to increase the number of Latino attorneys was by recruiting and educating young people.
There was a program designed to create legal education opportunities, the Council of Legal Education Opportunities (CLEO), but Latinos could not take a place at the table because Latinos attorneys did not have an organization eligible to participate and make their voice heard.
Mario Obledo, MALDEF’s general Counsel, Cruz Reynoso, the Executive Director the California Rural Legal Assistance at that time, and Luis Garcia, a lawyer in private practice in San Francisco, together founded La Raza Lawyers in 1971. The Association found its first home at the MALDEF offices. From there, our founders began to recruit attorneys from San Francisco, the Bay Area, the State of California, and across the nation. Within a few years the La Raza Lawyers Association had become a national organization. Today, the national organization is known as the National Hispanic Bar Association, headquartered in Washington, D. C.
Our founders are proud of what we have become. They take credit only for an idea in response to a pressing need — the need to educate more minority Latino lawyers because there were so few.
In the early 1980s we lost one of our founders, Luis Garcia, who was then the Presiding Judge in the San Francisco Municipal Court. Mario G. Obledo and Cruz Reynoso have enjoyed long and very distinguished legal careers. Both have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
We are grateful to our founders for their example and leadership.
Bay Area Latino Lawyers Fund
BALLF is the 501(c)(3) non-profit branch of the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association. It's sole purpose is to raise funds to award fellowships to select law students who devote their summers to provide direct legal services to underserved communities in the Bay Area. Almost all of our recipients will work for a non-profit or governmental organization that cannot afford to them. Every dollar earned will directly benefit our fellows. Thank you for your support!