This is another installment of the series, Spotlight On! A series where we showcases Latina lawyers and learn about the early successes in their careers.
Today we hear from Christina Alvarez, a solo practitioner in Florida! She paints a great picture of career progression through all the legal ranks–from paralegal to attorney/business owner (a path many Latinas opt to take before starting law school)!
When did you start practicing?
I started practicing law in September of 2014. I have also served as support staff in the roles of file clerk, receptionist, legal assistant, paralegal, and law clerk at various law firms in the Orlando area since 2007.
What made you want to pursue a career in law?
I wanted to pursue a career in law because it would give me the ability to help people in the most desperate of situations. I knew a career in law would give me the opportunity to directly impact the course of lives in a way that no other profession could. I also love that as lawyers we have the power to shape our communities and use our education and training to truly make a difference in the injustices of the world. I believe that it is especially true of Latina lawyers since Hispanic lawyers and judges make up about only 4% of the total amount of lawyers and judges in the United States.
What area of law do you practice?
I practice family law, estate planning, probate, and guardianships.
What is a typical day like for you in your work?
I typically come in and check e-mails from my clients or opposing counsel. There is a lot of negotiation with regards to my family cases so I am typically negotiating issues with opposing counsel every day. When I am not in court for hearings or trials, I can be found in my office drafting petitions or settlement agreements. Since I own my practice, I try to attend networking events at least once a week.
How did you get started in this area of law?
Before attending law school I worked as a paralegal with an estate planning and probate attorney. I really enjoyed the problem solving aspect of estate planning and probate and that attorney allowed me to be highly involved in the drafting and management of his cases. During law school I clerked for a solo practioner, Juan de la Torre, who practiced family law and is still my mentor today. I expressed to Mr. De la Torre that I was interested in learning all aspects of family law and so he took the time to invest in my interest and mentor me. I was able to observe his hearings and trials and work on strategies of cases with him.
What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about your job?
The most challenging thing about my job is trying not to take my client’s problems home with me. I care very much about my clients and their well-being. Especially when there are children involved in family cases. The most rewarding part of my job is being able to be a voice and fight for clients that are being bullied by their ex-partner into giving up either time-sharing or marital assets. I’ve found that there is a lot of misinformation about family law that the general public believes and so it is rewarding to give my clients peace of mind regarding misinformation they have received.
What is your best survival tip for current law students?
My best survival tip would be to stay in your own lane and run your own race. While law school is highly competitive it is important not to focus too much on what other students are doing because not everyone has the same ambitions and career goals. It’s also important to identify what study methods work best for you and what internships you feel would benefit your future career. Lastly, it is important to have a support group of friends and family to encourage you through the tough times. You cannot go through the process alone. I’m forever grateful to my husband for supporting and encouraging me when I felt overwhelmed.
For Latinas considering law school, what advice would you give them to succeed in their law school career?
I would tell Latinas who are considering law school to intern or work in the legal field before they attend. There is so much to learn from working in a law office every day that law school will not teach you. It will prepare you for the very demanding but rewarding experience of graduation law school. I am able to run my own practice based on the prior experience I had in helping prior bosses run theirs. When you first attend law school make it a point to get to know people and develop a strong group of friends who you can study with and vent to. Surround yourself with other students who are serious about doing their best and who are positive. The friends you make in law school will be life-long friends because you will have gone through the trenches with them.
Finally, at Latinas Uprising, we focus on living a life well-lived. What’s something you do (or try to do) to help reduce the stress in your life and create a healthy lifestyle?
Every Friday I usually eat dinner with my husband or friends. I really enjoy good food and laughter and so those Friday night outings serve as a way to relieve stress for me. It’s my reward to myself for working really hard during the week. It’s also my way of marinating relationships and keeping a balance between work and fun because I don’t always see my husband during the week or talk to my friends. I am also a spiritual person and so I make time to pray in the mornings for God to give me strength and wisdom to take on the day