photo of Alejandra Curiel Molina

ASU Law JD grad focuses on making a difference for other first-generation students

By

Julie Tenney

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

A first-generation American and the first in her family to attend college, Alejandra Curiel Molina has worked hard to provide minority and low-income students with opportunities to feel welcomed in higher education.

She says having the privilege to lead the Chicano Latino Law Student Association (CLLSA) as president during her third year at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is one of her biggest accomplishments.

“Being involved with CLLSA has allowed me the opportunity to take my experiences to a whole new level,” said Curiel, who will earn her JD this spring. “As president, I geared and guided the creation of the youth and development chair to take over the Aguila program in partnership with Los Abogados.”

As part of the Aguila program, ASU Law students facilitate monthly information sessions with high school students interested in working in the legal profession. The sessions include local lawyers and other legal professionals who discuss their work and help to coach the high schoolers in moot court competitions.

Curiel also worked closely with the association’s pro bono chair to establish relationships with Latino undergraduate students who were interested in the legal profession.

“I think my biggest achievement was being able to continue to foster a collegial environment where CLLSA members could still feel united with one another and participate in social events, in a virtual setting, regardless of the difficulties presented by COVID-19. It has been an honor to serve this organization and an experience I will forever cherish,” said Curiel, who is an ASU Willard H. Pedrick Scholar and Gust Rosenfeld Scholar. She also is a recipient of the State Bar of Arizona Criminal Justice Executive Council Future Practitioner Award for 2020, and an honoree of The Order of Barristers and the ABOTA Trial Advocacy Award. 

Question: Why did you choose ASU Law?

Answer: I was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. Prior to coming to ASU Law, I had lived outside of Arizona for three years. As a first-generation American, and a first-generation student, family and my community is super important to me. Even though I had never lived in Phoenix, Arizona is home, and I wanted to come back home.

Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study in your particular field of law?

A: (It happened) before coming to law school. After receiving my bachelor’s degree, I joined Teach for America where I worked as a mathematics teacher for two years. During that time, I had the opportunity to work in a community that reminded me very much of the community I grew up in. I have always been committed to public service, but my experience then helped me make sense of many of the inequities that I hope to work against in my career.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU Law — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I learned to be patient and forgiving with myself. To understand that I may not always have the mental or emotional capacity to take on difficult conversations. However, at the same time, I learned that my opinion is super important, and, while I may sometimes feel outnumbered, my different experiences are an asset that will guide me in making a positive change within the profession.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU Law?

A: I have had several professors who have taught me important lessons, but Professor Valena Beety has become one of my most valued mentors. Professor Beety has taught me that even as a student my work is valuable, to not be afraid to express my opinion, and that even though the road ahead is challenging, I am not alone.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those contemplating ASU Law, and those still in law school?

A: The advice I would give to each is very different. To those contemplating ASU Law, I would say apply. However, make sure you take your time to plan out your application process. In particular, studying and taking the LSAT should, at a minimum, take you three to six months. This means you should contemplate taking the LSAT a year in advance from when you want to start law school. Your undergraduate GPA and your LSAT score will likely be the driving factors in determining the amount of any potential scholarship you will receive.

Additionally, know your strengths and weaknesses. If you have studied for the LSAT, done several practice tests, taken the LSAT several times, and you still don’t have a score that falls within the range of scores for ASU Law, then your LSAT score may not be your strong suit. This is OK. However, if this is you, you should consider applying for early admission as it will increase your chances of getting a seat.

For those who are still at ASU Law, my advice is to use the time in law school to grow as a person and avoid comparing your growth to that of others. Engage in classes that you are interested in, even if they are not on the bar. Some of my most engaging classes that have thought me how to look at the law in more creative ways have been the ones that are not on the bar.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: As of right now, my plans are to study for, and hopefully pass, the Arizona bar exam in July. Then, I have accepted a law clerk position with the office of the Maricopa public defender, which will likely turn into an attorney position upon passing the bar. In the future, I may also apply to become a law clerk for a judge.