Luminating Latina Lawyers: Meet Paulina Vera, a Contributor to our New Quarterly Series

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The Legal Executive Institute Next Gen Leadership: Advancing Lawyers of Color is proud to announce the launch of the Luminating Latina Lawyers (LLL) quarterly content series.

We are doing so in partnership with Paulina Vera, the founder of Hermanas in the Law, a digital community that highlights the accomplishments of Latinas lawyers (aka Lawtinas) in order to build a community of future Latina attorneys to share career advice and celebrate career successes. Vera is also Professorial Lecturer In Law at the George Washington University and Interim Director of the GW Law Immigration Clinic.

“We do amazing things, and no one really talks about our stories,” Vera said. “We need to be more mainstream in the legal profession.” In under two years, the Hermanas digital community has grown to more than 7,600 individuals, mostly through Instagram, and serves as a way for members of the community to share advice to 1L Lawtinas, such as how to prepare for the bar exam, among other topics.

Vera said she created Hermanas based mainly on her own experiences and knowing very early on that she was interested in a career in law. When Vera was in law school, for example, there were only six Latinas in her class, and much of the career advice she received was well-intentioned but fell short because it didn’t consider her background or cultural considerations. Shortly after she joined the Immigration Clinic at GW Law, she was the only woman of color on a panel with two other men discussing practicing law under the current administration. When she saw that many of her students from the Clinic had come to see the session, she realized that she wanted to see more Lawtinas be represented as experts in the law.

Her goal to be a lawyer specializing in immigration law was solidified in college when she went home to Tucson, Ariz. — home to many Mexican-Americas — and began interning in an elected official’s office. Most of her work during the summer focused on the Congressman’s opposition to Arizona’s SB 1070 law, which is known as the “show me your papers, please” law and essentially, allowed local law enforcement to stop individuals they believed could be violating U.S. immigration laws.

Latina Lawyers

Paulina Vera of Hermanas in the Law

Founding Hermanas

The basic foundation of Hermanas in the Law is mentorship and lifting up one another in the legal profession; and the content for Luminating Latina Lawyers will help to achieve Vera’s desire to mainstream Latina’s career successes. LLL topics will be crowdsourced, in part, from Hermanas in the Law.

LLL will feature create content that is familiar to ethnic minority attorneys but presented through a Latina lens. For example, imposter syndrome is something very familiar to many diverse and non-diverse attorneys, but for Latinas, part of that feeling includes English as a second language. Another subject to which Latinas lawyers are accustomed is the cultural pressures around supporting families. While many lawyers of color may face pressure to support their families even while in law school, Latinas face the added cultural phenomenon of supporting them in addition to the preferences of not moving too far away, Vera said. “I’ve heard a lot of stories and concerns of people in our Latina community, since creating Hermanas in the Law a year and a half ago,” she explains, adding that she wants to expand effective ways for Latinas to achieve these goals through the quarterly series.

To illustrate the power that Hermanas in the Law has had, Vera told the story of one Latina, who had been undocumented for her whole life, but who nevertheless decided to pursue law school in Canada because it was less expensive. The Latina law student had leaned on Vera’s community to connect to any other Latina lawyers in her new country, and was able to find a woman from the Canadian Hispanic Bar Association who has since become the law student’s mentor.

Another amazing connection made through Hermanas allowed one of the Lawtinas from Vera’s community to earn an interview for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s administrative assistant after the job was posted with the Hermanas in the Law community on Instagram.

Clearly, there is power in both the networking abilities of the community of Lawtinas and the national scope of Hermanas in the Law. We at the Legal Executive Institute’s Next Gen Leadership: Advancing Lawyers of Color is proud to launch the Luminating Latina Lawyers content series to amplify the connections and accomplishments of this community.