Press Release: Arkansas Law Review Names First Person of Color as Editor in Chief for 2023-24

Jissel Esparza Saucedo has been selected to serve as editor in chief of the Arkansas Law Review for the 2023-24 academic year. She will be the first person of color in the history of the publication to serve in this position.

Reflecting on the significance of her achievement, Esparza said, “It is the greatest honor of my life to serve as editor in chief! I am delighted to serve the Arkansas Law Review, the School of Law and the state of Arkansas through this position. In February 1948, Silas H. Hunt became the first student of color to be admitted to the University of Arkansas School of Law and the first Black student to be admitted for graduate/professional studies at any all-white university in the former Confederacy. Unfortunately, Mr. Hunt died of tuberculosis before he could matriculate. I often reflect on Mr. Hunt, the first of the Six Pioneers, and all the hardships he endured. His resilience led the path for me to be where I am today. The progress we see today is a demonstration of the great sacrifices Mr. Hunt made. While I am the first editor in chief of color, I am confident there are many more to follow.” The Arkansas Law Review, a mainstay of the legal community in Arkansas, has been in publication for 75 years.

Alex Nunn, the faculty adviser for the Arkansas Law Review said, “I was absolutely thrilled to hear that the Arkansas Law Review selected Jissel as its next editor in chief.” He added that, “Jissel is an immensely talented law student–one of the state’s best young legal minds–and I can’t wait to see all that she will accomplish at the helm of Arkansas’ flagship legal journal. I know I speak for the entire faculty, as well as the broader law school community, when I express my excitement for the year ahead as Jissel takes on her new role.”

Ezparza who is a second-year student at the U of A School of Law, was selected, along with the new editorial board, by the outgoing board. Current editor in chief Bailey Geller said, “Jissel was chosen to be the 2023-2024 editor in chief of the Arkansas Law Review for a multitude of reasons, but it really boiled down to her strong work ethic and passion for helping others. Not only does Jissel give 110% to everything she is directly involved in, but she also goes out of her way to help others even when she has no obligation to do so. All in all, I am confident Jissel will effectively lead the Law Review with her studiousness and perseverance and that she will bring a unique perspective on ways to better the journal. In my opinion, she has every quality of a stellar editor in chief — plus some.”

Esparza’s goals as incoming editor in chief include having board members participate in a monthly service to the community and increasing the number of first-year students who participate in the law review write-on competition. She feels it is important to capitalize on the enthusiasm with which the current editorial board participated in community engagement and feels that increasing participation in the write-on competition will create a journal more reflective of the law school community and will ensure the ongoing interest of a group of students eager to contribute to the publication.

Esparza, a native of Jonesboro, was the first Hispanic student to be named valedictorian of Jonesboro High School. After high school, she attended the U of A, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in accounting and finance, with a minor in Spanish, from the Walton College of Business, before enrolling in the U of A School of Law.

As an undergraduate, she served as treasurer for the U of A student body during academic year 2020-21. That same year she was the 2021 recipient of the Arkansas Alumni Association’s Senior Honor Citation.

Since enrolling in law school, Esparza has served as an extern at Walmart Inc. in the tax department, as the fundraising director of the Women’s Law Student Association and treasurer of the student chapter of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. She is a member of the law school’s Anti-Racism Anti-Bias Task Force and was selected as the inaugural Mitchell Williams Legal Diversity Fellow. In her role as Fellow, Esparza works directly with the law school’s director of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging to foster a culture of inclusion through mentorship, recruitment and programming.

Esparza’s favorite law school class has been Evidence with professor Nunn. “I thoroughly enjoyed learning the intricacies of what is and what is not admissible in the courtroom. The Federal Rules of Evidence are often considered dense and difficult to grasp, but once you start to understand them, you start to see the foundational principles on which our justice system was built,” Esparza said. She encourages first-year law students to branch out as much as possible. “Many students come to law school thinking they know exactly what type of law they want to practice but find different pathways through the variety of course offerings and involvement in student organizations and pro bono activities.”

Esparza clerked last summer at Lewis Rice LLC in St. Louis, Missouri, and will return this summer before beginning her third and final year of law school. Originally intending to pursue an LL.M. in tax after law school, she is now considering pursuing a practice in litigation and aspires to one day teach law students.

About the School of Law: The law school offers J.D. as well as an advanced LL.M. program, which are taught by nationally recognized faculty. The school offers unique opportunities for students to participate in pro bono work, externships, live client clinics, advocacy and journal experiences, and food and agriculture initiatives. From admitting the Six Pioneers who were the first African American students to attend law school in the South without a court order to graduating governors, judges, prosecutors, and faculty who went on to become president of the United States and secretary of state, the law school has a rich history and culture. Follows us at @uarklaw.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas’ flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News