Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 12

SIDEBAR

A Sisterhood of Latina Lawyers
By Lisa Jiron

P

aulina Vera is a professor at George Washington University Law
School where she supervises its immigration clinic and teaches
immigration courses. When she's not shaping the minds of future
lawyers of this country, Vera runs a 12,000-follower Instagram
account called Hermanas in the Law. She is a trifecta not encountered
often in many of the spaces she occupies. Vera is young, a woman,
and Latina.
A defining moment in Vera's passion for immigration law happened
during a summer internship in the office of Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva
of Arizona. On July 29, 2010, a window in Grijalva's office was shot out
due to his stance on SB 1070, Arizona's so-called " show me your papers "
law, the strictest anti-illegal immigration legislation in the country at the
time of its passage. To Vera, this was an eye-opening experience. " Both
my parents are immigrants. Immigration has always been a part of my
life, but this was the first time I saw how hateful people could be when
it came to immigration, " she says.
That internship educated her more about the immigration process and
brought her to GW Law, where she felt isolated with so few women of
color in her classroom. She eventually came across the Latin American
Law Student Association, a community that gave her reprieve from the
competitive nature of law school. " Loneliness is a common theme. We
are always the first or the only [minority] in law spaces, including law
school classrooms and our jobs. That is why I sought community and
created my own, " she says.

Vera formed Hermanas in the Law in 2018 after speaking on an immigration panel in which she yet again stood out. " I remember the optics of
sitting on that panel: I'm much younger. I'm a woman. I'm Latina. I just
took a moment of reflection and realized that this is so indicative of
being in these spaces a lot of the time, " she says.
Vera understood there was a need to create a community for women,
minority, and first-generation law students, with the intention of making
them more visible in the legal profession. Over time, Hermanas in the
Law became a place for members to find resources for law school applications, salary negotiations, exam advice, and more.
As Hermanas in the Law's Instagram following grew, people began to
seek out Vera for advice or connections with other attorneys in the field.
Vera also started opening up the page for question-and-answer sessions.
Due to the popularity of the account, Hermanas in the Law has even
expanded to other social media pages and organized meetups in major
cities. Vera aspires to one day hold a conference where " Latina lawyers
and law students can learn from each other, network, and build
community. "
No longer a solo operation, Hermanas in the Law is now being managed
by a group of women that includes Vera's mentee, Cristina Gil, a law clerk
at the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project. Over the years, Gil has gotten to
know Vera from their active involvement in the Hispanic Bar Association
of the District of Columbia, where Vera held several roles.
Gil remembers attending an event where women attorneys were invited
to share their experiences, like overcoming imposter syndrome and
being a minority in the field. Among the speakers was Vera, who discussed the importance of mental health in the legal profession. Gil
found Vera's openness and vulnerability very relatable.
Through Hermanas in the Law, Gil says she has met many women attorneys looking for a lifeline to guide them in their careers.

Latina lawyers
and law students
can learn from
each other,
network,
and build
community.
PAULINA VERA
George Washington
University Law School

Monica Weeks

12

WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

MARCH/APRIL 2021

Reflecting on the positive reaction to the online community she has
built, Vera says the most rewarding part has been the connections she
has helped create between aspiring law students and career attorneys.
Vera also enjoys hearing from people about how the page has helped
them and seeing how community members are supporting one another,
whether it is applying to law school or solving work issues.
What advice would she give aspiring lawyers? Vera says it is important
for law students to forge their own path and understand that there are
many ways to achieve their goals. For new lawyers, she wants to assure
them that it is okay if they do not know the answer to legal problems
right away.
" Telling my clients, 'I don't know, but let me research it,' allowed me to
become a better attorney. It let me be honest with my clients and do the
work to find the answer. I tell my law students the same thing. Embrace
that you don't know things and can figure it out, " she says.
Lisa Jiron, a 3L at GW Law and a legal intern at the Consumer Financial
Protection Bureau, is a D.C. Bar writer in residence.



Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021

Digital Extras
From Our President
Calendar of Events
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Staying Put in Big Law feature
A Sisterhood of Latina Lawyers Sidebar
Increasing Diversity & Inclusion the the Legal Profession feature
Cultivate Mentorships sidebar
A Tribute to Judge June L. Green feature
Delicate Balance for Black Women Attorneys in Government Feature
Falling Short on Disability Inclusion feature
Elusive Justice in Violence Against Native Women feature
Worth Reading
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - Marcia Madsen
Member Spotlight - Simon Zinger
ABA Delegates Corner
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effecy
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 5
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Staying Put in Big Law feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 11
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Sisterhood of Latina Lawyers Sidebar
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 13
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Increasing Diversity & Inclusion the the Legal Profession feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 15
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cultivate Mentorships sidebar
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 17
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Tribute to Judge June L. Green feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 19
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 20
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 21
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Delicate Balance for Black Women Attorneys in Government Feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 23
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 24
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 25
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Falling Short on Disability Inclusion feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 27
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 28
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 29
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Elusive Justice in Violence Against Native Women feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 31
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 32
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 34
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 35
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Member Spotlight - Marcia Madsen
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Member Spotlight - Simon Zinger
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 40
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 41
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - ABA Delegates Corner
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 45
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 47
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - The Pro Bono Effecy
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 49
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 50
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 51
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover4
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