Elon Law administrator speaks at national convention

Krista Contino Saumby, the School of Law’s associate director of career development, took part in the opening plenary session for the Hispanic National Bar Association Annual Convention.

An Elon Law career services administrator and instructor participated in the opening plenary session of a national convention that each year brings together hundreds of Hispanic attorneys and law professors.

Krista Contino Saumby was among the professors and instructors on a plenary panel discussion titled “Addressing the Alarming Shortage of Hispanic Law Faculty and Deans: Widening Pipelines, Increasing Representation, and Empowering Our Community” on September 7, 2023, at the Hispanic National Bar Association Annual Convention in Minneapolis.

The session included panelists from the HNBA’s Special Committee on Hispanic Law Faculty and Deans formed in April. Anthony E. Varona, dean and professor of law at Seattle University School of Law, served as moderator.

The panel addressed the reasons for a shortage of Hispanic attorneys in the United States, the imperative to redress the shortage, and various successful strategies to increase the number of Hispanics in the legal academy along with providing specific guidance for Hispanic lawyers and law students interested in pursuing careers in legal academia.

Contino challenged attendees to consider the opportunity to instruct and enter academia.

“I spoke to a law clerk before coming up to the stage today,” she said. “They told me they could not be a professor because they did not go to a T-14 law school. I tell my students to never self-eliminate. I say the same to every individual here.”

As of early 2023, only nine of the almost 200 deans of ABA-accredited law schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia are Hispanic/Latino, and the percentage of Hispanic/Latino law professors is estimated to be 5%.

According to the most recent ABA Profile of the Legal Profession, only 5.8% of lawyers in the U.S. are Hispanic, despite Hispanics comprising 19% of the general population.

Contino was appointed last year to the role of regional president for Region VI of the Hispanic National Bar Association, the country’s largest professional organization to represent and advocate on behalf of Hispanic attorneys.

Prior to entering legal education, she leveraged her electrical and computer engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon University and law degree to counsel Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Apple, Adobe, Yamaha, and Boeing in patent law.

She joined the Office of Career & Student Development in June 2022 and, in addition to mentoring students who seek her expertise for career assistance, teaches a year-long required course, “Lawyering, Leadership, and Professionalism”, each year for the incoming class.