After a way too long hiatus, Latina Leader Lunes is back! And I’m super thrilled to start with Mayra. Just from the small peeks of her life via social media, I know she is a force to be reckoned with! She is exactly what a Latina leader is all about–she saw how the Latino community in Northwest Indiana was underserved and marginalized. Then she worked hard to become the leader that they need. After graduating law school, she opened her own practice and is continuing to provide for her community. Here she gives us some insight on her journey through law school and goals for the upcoming year:
1. When & why did you decide to go to law school?
I always dreamed of being a lawyer, but thought it was impossible. I obtained a degree in the arts for my undergrad. I graduated in 2008, during the recession. The only jobs available were sales, and I worked my way up the corporate ladder many years. Though I loved the money, I HATED my job. I felt I had no purpose and direction. I was successful, but my daily life was full of passive aggressiveness by upper management, who were mostly all white males. It was exhausting. Around this time, my husband and I were looking for a competent and compassionate immigration attorney for his case. It was disappointing not to find any, and in Northwest Indiana, I noticed there were 0 spanish speaking immigration attorneys. Out of spite, I took the LSAT on a whim in 2012, and applied to law school. I got accepted for that year, but was scared to make the financial leap and decided not to go. I instantly regretted it a month later and decided to reapply and luckily, got accepted again. I began in 2013.
2. What and Where do you practice? I practice immigration law in Highland, Indiana.
3. What is a typical day like?
With this administration-INSANE. I spend my days doing consults, case work, filling out forms, collecting and gathering evidence, filing documents, making calls to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), court appearances, and easing a lot of fears.
4. What attracted you to this practice area?
At first, immigration law was the whole reason I went to law school, and naturally it was what I always saw myself doing. I am a servant at heart and I think this work is important. I did stray for a minute, though. During law school, a member of my latino lawyers group did a lecture on not “pigeon holing” ourselves by doing the “typical” work Latino lawyers do. I took the advice and explored other areas of law and began looking into IP. After law schooI, I felt it was a disservice if I did any other law, especially once Donald Trump got elected. I take his attacks against immigrants personally, and I am very protective of my people. They need all the help they can get to navigate these crazy times.
5. What do you like most about your current position? And what is the most challenging aspect of your work?
I like that my clients feel extremely comfortable with me, they trust me because I speak their language. Our end product changes their lives and those of their future generations, and they are forever grateful. Clients being too comfortable can also be a downside, because once you are approachable, it is difficult to set boundaries. It is also very difficult not to take work home with you. Secondary trauma is very real, and having to emotionally detach yourself constantly can be very difficult. I never want to become hardened, but if I do not do this in certain cases, the work would never get done.
6. If you could give your 1L self advice about law school, what would it be?
SAVE $! – I was used to a different spending lifestyle before law school, and this was difficult to adapt to. 3L gets super expensive with all of the graduation stuff, and I wish I would have had a better financial plan.
Don’t have sex because you will get pregnant!- Only half kidding. I was told I could not have children and ended up pregnant 1 month into law school. No regrets because he is my motivation and biggest blessing, but the takeaway is that family does not stop just because you are in law school. Family needs you, they get ill, there are emergencies- this is normal, even if you don’t have a baby, because you have parents, siblings, etc. Prioritize and organize, don’t freak out.
Professors want you to succeed, reach out!-I had to put my dog down of 10 years 3 months into law school (1L was eventful). I had a test that same afternoon and bawled throughout the whole thing. I got an F. The whole law school experience is very intimidating initially and I did not think this professor would care. I went to tell the professor after and his office was full of dog pictures. He was a dog person. Once I told him what happened he told me he would’ve rescheduled for me, and that now it was too late. “Let this be a lesson that at the end of the day, we are humans that are rooting for you.” Forever noted.
7. What is your best tip for someone in beginning their law school application process? -DO IT. No doubts, no fears, you can do this. You are enough and will belong. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. Find mentors ASAP. If there is no one in your area, research and find one online. You will be surprised to find many are willing to help.
8. 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?
I recently picked up long distance running and it has been very therapeutic. I am slowly learning that you cannot run on an empty tank, so I like to disconnect and make time to cook and be with family to renergize. This year, I am looking forward to traveling more!