By Antonio Gallegos – Mentor, Of Counsel, Greenberg Traurig
As a young student, there was a quite bit I didn’t know about pursuing an undergraduate degree, a law degree and a legal career. LAW SCHOOL … Sí Se Puede is the perfect vehicle for me to help today’s students learn some of the things I struggled with along the way and after becoming a lawyer.
I come from a working class family. No one on my mom’s side had ever graduated from college. My father was the first in his family to do it. But he took a non-traditional path, joining the military, then taking a civil service job through a program that paid for his night school tuition. Neither my mother nor father had any personal experience from which they could draw to help guide me through college course selection and finding part-time jobs that would strengthen my law school application and resume.
Both my mother and father were extremely helpful and supportive and I am eternally grateful to them. But there were things I simply did not know in the same way as other students whose parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents had gone through college, law school, or graduate school. In fact, the idea of continuing my education beyond a Bachelor’s degree did not occur to me until 2-3 years after starting college.
I always thought working hard and getting good grades was all I needed to succeed. Maybe that’s 95% of the battle, but it’s not always enough to get your foot in the door at law school or the job you really want.
As an undergraduate looking for part time work during the school year and full time work during the summer, I did not appreciate how the quality of my work experience really matters. I was focused on how much I would be paid and shunned the idea of unpaid internships or jobs that paid only a small stipend. Having talked to other lawyers about the paths that led them to where they are, I now realize that I could have taken unpaid or modestly paid positions, worked part time and still would have been able to pay rent, buy food, and have a little fun and free time. Not only would I have gained valuable experience to help set me part from others, I would have started making the type of networking contacts that I did not start making until my first couple of years as a lawyer.
Fifteen years into my legal career, I see how I could have done things a little differently to help myself advance more quickly. I look forward to sharing these insights with young students from similar and less fortunate backgrounds. I don’t claim to have figured everything out. I welcome the opportunity to continue learning as I continue my legal career and from my LAW SCHOOL … Sí Se Puede Fellow.