When Esteban Rodriguez first arrived at Stanford Law School, he felt “like a fish out of water.”
“A lot of the students came from very privileged backgrounds. They were predominantly white—the children of US senators, federal judges, doctors, university professors,” he said. “My background could not be any more different.”
Rodriguez’s parents were both born in Mexico, and immigrated to the United States in the 1970s. They lived in East Los Angeles before moving to Orange County, where his father worked long hours as an auto mechanic. Rodriguez was the first in his family to graduate from college.
Although he quickly realized he belonged at Stanford—where he served as editor of the Stanford Law & Policy Review—Rodriguez has remained cognizant of the fact that he comes from a very different world than most of the people in his profession.
“It’s a challenge when you try to do something that no one in your family has done. You don’t want to mess it up,” he said. “But mostly it makes me humble. It makes me appreciative for the opportunity to do what I do.”
Rodriguez first volunteered at a legal aid organization when he was still in college at UC Irvine. At Stanford he worked on behalf of people sentenced under California’s three-strikes law, who were serving long or life sentences, often for nonviolent crimes.
After joining O’Melveny & Myers—where he represents clients in a variety of complex commercial litigation, consumer class action, and product liability matters—he began doing pro bono work in asylum, VAWA and U-Visa cases. When he became interested in joining a board to increase his community service, a partner at O’Melveny introduced him to NLSLA.
“I was looking for an organization that was truly an L.A. organization, an organization that really helps the Los Angeles community,” he said. “It was clear NLSLA really looks at what the needs in the community are, and tailors their services to those needs.”
“They are so passionate, and that’s kind of infectious,” he added. “It makes you want to be involved.”
Rodriguez lives in Eagle Rock with his spouse, two-year-old son and newborn daughter.
NLSLA is grateful Esteban chooses to donate his time and talent to support our work to lift our communities out of poverty and fight for justice.