What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field?
I am currently in-house counsel with the Municipal Credit Union, the oldest credit union in New York State. After attending Fordham Law School, I clerked for a year at NBC. I then worked at a national law firm and in two Fortune 50 companies within the insurance and financial services industry. I first became interested in corporate law as a college student as a result of my exposure to corporations through the INROADS program, which develops and places underrepresented youth in business and industry and prepares them for corporate and community leadership. As of August 2015, I will transition into a new position as Counsel for the New York City Bar Association. I am very excited about the new challenges ahead.
I am also the New York Regional President of the Hispanic National Bar Association (“HNBA”), the largest Latino Bar Association in the nation. I was elected to a two-year position in August 2014.
What is the biggest challenge of your work?
As a corporate generalist, I counsel the institution on many areas of the law. On a single day, I may need to focus on banking regulations, a new software licensing agreement, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, and a new law that impacts our Human Resources policies. All this in one day makes it consistently challenging and always exciting. In addition, this position has made me a versatile attorney.
As the Regional President of the HNBA, my biggest challenge is to figure out ways to help increase diversity in the legal profession. As a Latina attorney, I represent the most underrepresented segment of this profession. While Hispanics account for 17% of the population, we comprise only approximately 4% of the legal profession. As Regional President, I work hard to increase our numbers by organizing important discussions on how to succeed as an attorney, including career transition for law students and young lawyers, as well as creating opportunities to network. Finding ways to introduce and attract our young Latinos into the legal profession is also very challenging, but nevertheless, very fulfilling.
What is your proudest achievement?
I am very proud of the role that I will take on as Counsel for the New York City Bar Association, a well respected institution that has an enormous impact on the legal profession. I am also extremely proud to serve my community as Regional President of the HNBA.
What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?
I admire those who excel in their fields while dedicating time to their communities. I admire a leader with a combination of brilliance, strength and humility. United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and New York Court of Appeals Associate Judge Jenny Rivera fit the bill.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I see myself as a corporate and civic leader making a significant difference. For example, the General Counsel of MetLife, Ricardo Anzaldua, makes a difference every day when he holds law firms and others accountable for their lack of diversity. That is power. I see myself in a position where I can hold others accountable in order to truly effectuate change.
In addition, I want to make an impact both here and in Puerto Rico, the island where I was born. The island needs big thinkers, entrepreneurs, and creativity to flourish, but it also needs leaders who have the interest of the Puerto Rican people in mind. Currently, there are estimates that almost one thousand people are migrating to the mainland U.S. every week. The economy is in shambles, the relationship with the U.S. is complex, and Congress needs to act quickly.
Did you have a mentor or do you mentor someone else? How has that experience changed you?
I have been blessed with fantastic mentors in all aspects of my life. Personal mentors who fall in this category are Judge Jenny Rivera, Justice Carmen Velasquez, Judge Javier Vargas, Maria Melendez from Sidley Austin, Maria Fernandez from IBM, Fernando Bohorquez from BakerHostetler, Jose Perez from LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Natalia Martín and Karla Sanchez from the Cafecitos Network, Joe Trovato from MetLife, Joe Ortego from Nixon Peabody, and Joe Hill from BlackRock. In my current leadership role, Robert Maldonado, Rosevelie Márquez Morales, Diana Sen and Elba Galvan have been great mentors. My first mentor when I was in law school was William Malpica. All of them have expanded my horizons, inspired me to action and/or served as a soundboard. I am never afraid to ask questions or seek help. Since so many people have been there for me, I always answer the call when a student needs my time.
What do you hope to gain from your CUP Fellows Program experience to help you make a significant and positive impact in your community?
The network and resources are second to none. The quality of the leadership development I am receiving as a Fellow is phenomenal, and I use it as often as I can. Often times as attorneys, we become bar junkies and interact a bit too frequently with other attorneys at the expense of reaching other professionals. CUP expands my network by allowing me to learn from people in so many industries. I hope to use these resources to help empower others.