The Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, CHBA, was originally incorporated in 1977, as the Chicano Bar Association. At that time, Latino law students and attorneys sought ways to expand Latino presence in the legal community, as well as advocate for Colorado’s Latino community-at-large. That small group, originally containing ten to fifteen members, has grown by leaps and bounds. Currently, the CHBA represents the interests of more than 500 Latino attorneys and law students in Colorado. In 1980, approximately 40 Latino attorneys attended the CHBA’s first annual banquet. By comparison, the CHBA’s 2014 Banquet boasted nearly 400 attendees, including prominent Latino partners from Colorado’s top law firms, Latino judges from every level of Colorado’s judiciary, and Latino leaders from all of Colorado’s private industries and governmental organizations.
In the very late ‘60’s Bob Yegge, then-Dean of DU Law School had a radical idea to encourage more diversity in the law school and developed special admissions, which was also coming into being at other progressive law schools in other parts of the country. Early-on, the first few classes of law students created a group named MALSA, Mexican American Law Student Association. As their members graduated and got jobs they saw a need for a bar association and formed one in the basement of the law school at 14th and Bannock and, when it was incorporated, was named it Chicano Bar Association. Very quickly efforts were made to include both CU Law and graduates of other law schools who had come to Colorado to practice. In the early to mid ‘80’s, the group sought to embrace and welcome Latinos of other nationalities than Mexican and to expand the reach of the group to become focused more statewide rather than be confined to the Denver Metro area. It was around that time that the group was named Colorado Hispanic Bar Association.
Around 1979-80, the CHBA met monthly at restaurants, and about 10 members showed. The focus of at that time was to grow the organization and be the most effective at creating an impact on the issues important to the Latino community. By the mid-80’s, CHBA grew and used its voice to back endorsements for political and judicial appointments such as the appointment of David Ramirez as City Attorney for Denver and Federico Alvarez for a judicial appointment. By the late 90’s and into 2000, the CHBA became a sophisticated organization, willing to take on political issues and became a force to be reckoned with. CHBA continues to be an activist organization for issues important to the Latino Community. The CHBA is developing programs for CHBA members to be informed of, apply for and prepare for Mayoral and Gubernatorial appointments, such as a panel discussion to assist its members in Navigating political appointments.
The CHBA has come a long way and maintains it’s same mission; to promote Latinos in the legal profession, advocate for Latino involvement in the public and private sectors, foster respect for Latinos in the law, and support the full participation of all minority communities at every level of society. Examples of the CHBA’s work include: developing and maintaining a successful mentoring program, bar examination tutorial programs for up-and-coming Latino attorneys; running multiple legal clinics for the benefit of Colorado’s Latino community; and invoking our membership and resources on important political issues facing Colorado’s Latino community. We are proud of the work we have done for our community thus far, and we look forward to making greater strides for our community into the future.
Law students have joined the CHBA for networking opportunities with attorneys of a variety of specialties and employers and have found the group to be more encouraging and helpful than expected. CHBA is very much like a family, everyone pitches in to help members achieve goals and succeed because CHBA recognizes it will accomplish more together. CHBA’s hope for the future is for the organization to continue to expand and be a strong communal voice legally, politically, and socially for the Latino community in Colorado by developing a database of members by practice area and region for referrals and to increase diversity in legal representation, expanding the youth outreach programs, free legal clinics, and the sense of community to the state wide level.
If you are interested in becoming a member of CHBA or participating in the 2015 banquet, please visit the website at www.chba.net. You don’t have to be Latino to be a member.
Submitted by Elizabeth Espinosa Krupa, CHBA President and Kristina Garica, CHBA Education Committee Co-Chair