On Nov. 18, 2013, the Frank Erwin Center in Austin hummed with chatter and laughter as recent law school graduates waited to be inducted into the State Bar of Texas. The new lawyers were in joyful moods, congratulating each other and making plans to meet up after the ceremony. The Texas Bar Journal randomly selected several of these new lawyers and interviewed them about their influences and hopes for the future. Mallory Craig Craig, 26, from Sugar Land, went to Syracuse University College of Law, will receive her LL.M. from the University of Houston Law Center in December 2014, and is currently applying for jobs. What made you want to become a lawyer? My degree in speech pathology opened my eyes to the evolving field of disability law and the injustices that still exist for people with disabilities. I knew from that experience that I wanted to be a lawyer and help people. Do you have a legal role model? I’m the first lawyer in my family. I did it on my own; nobody necessarily inspired me. What is one of the most defining cases of the past 75 years? For me, it would be Brown v. Board of Education. It’s meant so much to people with disabilities and for civil rights issues as well. It marked a change in society; we were recognizing that humans deserve equal treatment across the board. What are you most looking forward to as an attorney? Helping people. I’m going to steal a line from Taken: “I have a specific set of skills.” I do—and I can help people do things they can’t do themselves. Allison Boyle Boyle, 26, from Wisconsin, went to the University of Minnesota Law School and is currently with the Law Office of Javier Maldonado in San Antonio. What made you want to become a lawyer? Throughout undergrad, I was a tutor for an after-school program that served the Latino population. The kids started opening up to me about what they had experienced in their lives, like deported relatives and that a lot of them couldn’t go to college, and it was then that I decided on immigration law as a profession. Do you have a legal role model? No. I’m the first lawyer in my family, so I don’t really have a legal inspiration besides the few attorneys I’ve had interaction with that I consider my mentors—my boss, for one, and a few professors in law school that I really looked up to and still reach out to. Do you think pro bono will play a role in your career? Pro bono is what I love to do most. There’s a huge gap in terms of providing justice to low-income individuals. Legal services cost money, and it’s unfortunate that people with lower incomes don’t have the same access to the legal profession and legal services— resources that people with money have. I feel very passionate that justice applies to all people regardless of immigrant status, race, gender— you name it. Chris Conatser Conatser, 29, went to the University of Houston Law Center and is an associate in Norton Rose Fulbright’s Houston office, focusing on health care litigation. What made you want to become a lawyer? It’s what I always wanted to do. I met a special lady named Sarah Weddington, who argued Roe v. Wade—she’s in Austin now—and she inspired me to go to law school. Her words were, “No matter what you decide to do, you’ll be able to do it with a J.D.” It’s a powerful degree. You don’t have to be in a courtroom; the roads are unlimited. What do you think is one of the most defining cases of the past 75 years? U.S. v. Lopez, which is important because it was the first time in over 50 years that the Supreme Court limited the scope of Congress’s commerce clause power. Do you think pro bono will play a role in your career? A large amount. I helped with a pro bono case when I was at another law firm last summer. A woman was trying to get asylum status. If she went back to her home country, she would have most definitely been murdered or severely harmed. We fought for her case against a judge who has a 94 percent denial rate and got her asylum status. Going through that process really showed me that I can review contracts every single day, but if I want to do something that really helps somebody and really feel it and get my hands dirty—that’s the right avenue to go. What are you most and least looking forward to as an attorney? I’m looking forward to actually being able to speak in court. And, the best thing is that every week I’m presenting something new that I get to go research and learn new things about. I’m constantly being educated. The downside of it is learning to separate yourself from the problems you have to deal with and treating it as business. Mara Martinez Martinez, 27, went to the Oklahoma City University School of Law and recently opened her own private practice in her hometown of Brownsville. What made you want to become a lawyer? I saw a lot of struggle in the community I grew up in—poverty, access to education, and gender inequality—and I wanted to feel empowered to help make a difference. Do you have a legal role model? In the first grade, I learned about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. These women founded the National Woman Suffrage Association and were leaders in other social causes. They inspired me. What do you think is one of the most defining cases of the past 75 years? In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Grutter v. Bollinger that the University of Michigan Law School did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in its admissions policy’s use of racial preference. This is a defining case because it allowed the school to proactively achieve a diverse student body, although not without limits. Do you think pro bono will play a role in your career? It should be a big part of every lawyer’s career, and I definitely look forward to engraving that into my own. I think that if you use what you’ve got to help those around you, you will automatically become more successful, enriched, and satisfied. What are you most and least looking forward to as an attorney? Actually having the ability to help those who ask you for help. Achieving a work/life balance that provides a rewarding career and a fulfilling personal life is an obstacle that is ever-present. Yesenia Araiza Araiza, 26, from Dallas, received her law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and is currently doing document review and applying for jobs. What made you want to become a lawyer? It was a childhood dream and something I’ve always wanted to do. Do you have a legal role model? I am the first graduate of college and graduate school in my family. My law school professors are my legal role models because they instilled in me the values that will shape me into the attorney that I am going to be. They always stressed the importance of being fair, doing your best for your clients, and serving the underprivileged. This made me want to practice immigration law and family law. What do you think is one of the most defining cases of the past 75 years? Probably Roe v. Wade. It’s still a controversy today. Do you think pro bono will play a role in your career? I think that I’ll do a lot of pro bono work on the side. I’ll be in a position in my life to be able to help people in a different way. What are your thoughts on the current job climate for lawyers? I’ve made it this far, and with two kids—that’s a lot of work—so I feel like I can do anything. What are you most looking forward to as an attorney? To be able to help people with things that affect their lives. Keith Franklin Franklin, 27, from Cotulla, went to the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University and is an associate of the Laredo-based Person, Whitworth, Borchers & Morales, which specializes in landowner representation. What made you want to become a lawyer? I’m from a small town and there wasn’t a lawyer, so that was a big driving force. There was no legal representation for area farmers and ranchers. I also did debate in high school, and I really got into rural development and rural entrepreneurship when I went to college— and that’s what gave me the idea to go to law school. Do you have a legal role model? I’m the first lawyer in my family. However, I had a professor whose name was Okezie Chukwumerije, who quickly became my legal role model once I started law school. He was my mentor. What do you think is one of the most defining cases of the past 75 years? A case that is really important to all of us at Thurgood Marshall is the Sweatt v. Painter decision that actually created the law school and was the last barricade that had to be knocked down because Brown v. Board came right after that. I got rejected from six law schools. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Heman Sweatt. Do you think pro bono will play a role in your career? Absolutely. Especially with the kind of clients we represent. What are you most and least looking forward to as an attorney? I am looking forward to helping the very people I went to law school for. I have been the beneficiary of so much charity over the years, and I’m glad to be able to do the same for others now. On that same note, I am least looking forward to paying back my student loans.
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