Leslie M. Gomez ’95 Fosters Diverse Alumni Community as President of YLSA

Leslie M. Gomez ’95 gives her address during the 2023 Yale Law School Commencement.

As a COAP recipient and mentee of numerous YLS alumni over the years, Leslie M. Gomez ’95 has experienced firsthand the benefits of being a part of the Yale Law School Association. 

From her early post-grad years working as a child abuse and sex crimes prosecutor to later developing a unique legal practice, Gomez cultivated a network of supportive YLS alumni throughout her career. When asked if she would like to join the YLSA Executive Committee, she felt called to give back, especially to first-generation and diverse alumni like herself. 

Gomez currently serves as Vice Chair of the Institutional Response Group at Cozen O'Connor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she works to improve institutional responses to sexual and gender-based harassment and violence in schools, colleges, and universities. She received her B.A. in law and public policy from Brown University in 1992 where she graduated magna cum laude, and her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1995. In addition to her volunteer role with YLSA, she is a volunteer child advocate attorney through the Support Center for Child Advocates, regularly volunteers in a programming capacity for the National Association of College and University Attorneys, and has served on numerous child or victim-serving boards.

Following the inaugural Diversity Homecoming in April, Yale Law School spoke with Gomez about her experience serving on the Executive Committee and the driving force behind her involvement. 

What motivated you to engage with the Yale Law School Alumni community? 

I have always treasured my Yale Law School experience for the friendships and relationships I developed with my classmates, as well as with YLS staff and faculty. Engaging with the YLSA community provided an opportunity to reconnect with friends and support the work of Dean Gerken in her ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, inclusivity, and belonging. 

What has been your most meaningful experience volunteering with Yale Law School? 

The most meaningful experience was participating in the inaugural Diversity Homecoming in April 2023. The event celebrated the Law School’s alumni of color, welcoming them home to the Law School to engage in frank and candid conversations about our lived experiences in the Law School, in the law, and in life. It was humbling and inspiring to be a part of a gathering of such strong, talented, compassionate, and committed alumni — and gratifying to see alumni returning to the Law School for the first time in 25 or 30 years. I had the opportunity to participate in the planning by serving as a member of the Diversity Homecoming Ambassador Council — and I look forward to building on the energy from the Homecoming to continue to celebrate, honor, and welcome all of our alumni. Coming back to Yale as a volunteer has helped me to realize that my law school experience isn’t static, but expansive – that my connections to the Law School are not limited to the three years I spent in New Haven, but are constantly evolving and growing. Volunteering with the YLSA has allowed me to reconnect with many classmates, both those I called friends then, and those I have developed friendships with through the YLSA and reunions. Volunteering has also provided the opportunity to meet current law students. Learning their narratives and sharing my own narrative with students, particularly the vulnerabilities and challenges I experienced along the way, has been meaningful in developing connections and modeling the importance of living authentically. 

What makes volunteering for Yale Law School unique in relation to other volunteer or board work you have done? 

I am particularly enamored of the opportunity to interact directly with Dean Gerken to see firsthand her commitment to changing the landscape for so many law students for whom Yale Law School would have felt like an inaccessible dream. Through the Law School’s diversity efforts, including the development of the Hurst Horizon Scholarship, Yale has changed the complexion of the Law School, its scholarship, and its alumni body. And those efforts are changing the complexion of the law. I am honored to do my part to advocate for and support diversity, equity, inclusivity, and belonging.

What do you hope to accomplish through your work volunteering through Yale Law School?

My goals are to continue to increase the diversity of alumni engaged in volunteer work, to foster an increased sense of belonging for all alumni, and to continue to serve as a resource and mentor to YLS students. As law students — and professionals — we put so much pressure on ourselves to achieve and succeed. I think it is important to reflect that there are many pathways, that everyone’s journey is unique, and that sometimes the unanticipated turns bring the greatest rewards. I also hope to help foster an environment where all YLS students feel like they belong. As a first-generation, diverse student who worked for Jim Barnett in the YLS dining hall and for Dean Mike Thompson as YLS “security,” I often felt out of place, like I didn’t fit at Yale because my daily experience was different from my peers. From my older, hopefully wiser, more experienced vantage point and perspective, I now understand that many of us felt that way, and in some ways, many of us still do. Acknowledging that openly — and sharing that vulnerability with current Law School students — has helped me to recognize that we have to create and hold space for all to feel welcome at YLS. We do that best by bringing our authentic selves into every interaction.