The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Chicago Women, Queer and Non-binary Law Students of Color Create Organization to Fight Prejudices in the Legal Field

Women of Color Pre-Law Association (WOCA) is a student organization that provides support and resources for POC women and gender non-conforming people studying law at DePaul.
Rodolfo Zagal
Members of DePaul’s student organization Women of Color Pre-Law Association listen to a presentation in Arts and Letters Hall on Feb. 15, 2024. At the meeting, they learned about how to apply to law schools and where to find resources for the LSAT test.

Arielle Kallan remembers how poorly their first experience in law was when they supervised a courtroom for legal proceedings and composed arguments. 

“I was told that I was aggressive, and I had an attitude,” said Kallan, who is now vice president of the Women of Color Pre-Law Association (WOCA) at DePaul. 

Kallan is a founding member of WOCA, which aims to connect and uplift students with similar identities who are seeking a career in law, a field historically dominated by white men.

The community based organization was founded last fall and provides support and resources for women, non-binary and queer students of color that are interested in law. Kallan, who’s Indian-American and uses she/they pronouns, said they already know what it’s like being the only person in the room who “looks like me.” 

They want WOCA to be a space where women and folks with similar experiences can foster relationships that will help them develop their careers successfully. That includes encouraging judges and their other colleagues in law to refrain from misgendering people and remember to respect their work. 

“We give judges power based on how we allow them to treat us,” said Kallan. ”So, if we continue to misgender ourselves, for the sake of judges, then this is never going to change. And that’s definitely one of the hardest parts about being a minority in this field, because there’s always that constant threat of ‘do I need to tone myself down?’” Kallan said.

It was also important for Kallan that WOCA opened its doors to non-binary students because it would have been another exclusionary space if the club didn’t allow it, they said.

WOCA also assists people with securing funding and preparing for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). It also provides mentorship by partnering women lawyers working in the industry in Chicago with WOCA members. 

Magoli Garcia, president of DePaul’s student organization Women of Color Pre-Law Association (WOCA) speaks at WOCA’s meeting at Arts and Letters Hall on Feb. 15, 2024. She led a meeting about resources students could use to prepare for the LSAT test. (Rodolfo Zagal)

“We’re assigning them a specific WOCA member so that they…have someone who’s already in the field practicing [law], someone they could look up to ask questions…so they don’t have to figure it out themselves,” said Magoli Garcia, president of WOCA.  

Garcia is a senior studying political science and works at Kulwin Masciopinto & Kulwin LLP.

She said that she found the law school application process, along with the internship and job searching process, difficult because she had to navigate it alone as one of the few Latina women in the field.  

“It’s very difficult to feel comfortable in spaces where you don’t see yourself represented. I felt isolated because no one else around me had the same experiences entering this field,” Garcia said. 

Many Black and Latina women interested in law don’t have family members with law experience, so they have to go through the journey trying to figure it out for themselves from the ground up, Garcia said.

Most must pay for exams and other requirements out of their pocket. That’s why WOCA provides financial assistance and resources for low-income and first-generation students, like chief-of-staff member Alejandra Martinez. 

Members of DePaul’s student organization Women of Color Pre-Law Association play the game “Heads Up” at Arts and Letters Hall on Feb. 15, 2024. People guessed which historically influential women figures were on their cards without looking. (Rodolfo Zagal)

Martinez, who is Mexican-American, said her parents never had a formal education and currently work in the service industry. She said she filed her FAFSA and law school applications by herself and wishes she had guidance through school.  

The young law students said that there’s a misconception that there are abundant resources for underrepresented communities.

The reality is that there are few or none.  

“If there are resources, there’s one and we all have to fight for them, and it shouldn’t be like that. We should be uplifting our communities, in wanting to support them, not fight against each other,” Martinez said.

When she began applying for law school, Martinez was determined to be a resource for other WOCA members, sharing her advice and expertise in the application process. 

She was determined to be the resource she never had. 

“That’s what WOCA is about, making space and telling people that we’re here, we’re not leaving. If you don’t want to make space for us, we’re going to make space for ourselves,” Martinez said.

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