Featured Lawtina: Marisa Gomez, Class of 2021

My name is Marisa Gomez and I am a 3L at Fordham Law. I am from San Diego, California, where you can find the absolute best Mexican food in the United States and arguably the worst pizza.

I am half-Mexican and half-Irish, which makes visiting each side of the family for Christmas vastly different from the other. My dad is the son of Mexican immigrants and began his business over 40 years ago that he still runs today. My mom was Irish and became fluent in Spanish so that she could more easily communicate with my dad’s family. Spanish was my first language but I stopped speaking it at around age three and still haven’t been able to regain fluency.

I grew up in a bipartisan household where my mom watched Fox News and my dad watched CNN. Despite these differences, my parents agreed on the fundamental principle of serving others and creating a country with opportunities for everyone. They instilled these values in me from a young age and I strive to embody these traits to this day. My mom unfortunately passed away when I was 13 and my dad became a single father to me and my three older siblings. For years, my dad and siblings sacrificed daily to drive me to rehearsal, friends’ houses, and school.

Before college, I sought out scholarship opportunities to lessen the financial burden that college would place on my dad. After a lot of searching, I actually ended up turning to pageants. Despite not being a very traditional route and doubting my chances at winning, I worked hard and wound up winning for the state of California which came with $18,000 in scholarships. I was the first Latina to win the Distinguished Young Woman of California competition. To this day, I swear that this experience was the best preparation for job interviews.

I went to college at Fordham University in NYC and studied political science. I decided to go to law school after years of watching the news with my parents and wondering why and how the law fails to protect people. In many cases, people simply don’t know the law enough to use it to their advantage. As a lawyer, I can empower people to use it for their benefit or advocate for a change if the law doesn’t do enough.

Eager to begin law school and not eager to take out more loans than absolutely necessary, I applied to Fordham Law’s 3-3 program. This would allow me to forego senior year of college and go straight to 1L after the completion of my junior year. Six years and two degrees sounded great to me and would save me a whole year of tuition. I took the LSAT three times to make this happen and dedicated my whole junior year to the goal of getting in a year early. Thankfully, I succeeded.

Law school was daunting, but I was welcomed by incredible members of Fordham’s LALSA where I was told all of the things that nobody tells you about law school like how to actually brief a case, how recruiting works, and how to get outlines. I was also given exceptional networking opportunities. I now serve as the club’s Treasurer and I work to fundraise and manage money for the club so that we can host more great networking events for underclassmen and women. I will graduate in May 2021 and although it’s been hard work, it has been entirely worth it.

I have accepted a job as a first year associate at Venable which is scheduled to begin in the fall. After spending hours deciding what firms I wanted to pursue, it became clear that Veneble was the place for me- and I have LALSA to thank (partially) since I first came into contact with Venable through a mock interview program hosted by the club. All I can say is that LALSA takes care of its familia.

After retiring from pageantry for five years, I recently dusted off my pageant gowns to try to earn more scholarship money to help with my student loans. I entered my first Miss America local competition in November of 2019 and I am so fortunate to say that I won and now serve as Miss Greater New York. I will compete for Miss New York 2021 in May after a year’s delay because of COVID-19. In this role, I advocate for voter rights and mobilization and spend time visiting classrooms to teach civics lessons. I especially focus these efforts toward individuals in diverse communities to increase voter turnout in Latin American communities and make sure these areas are adequately funded through encouraging an accurate 2020 Census.

This unconventional activity for law students earned me lots confused glances from my classmates and even some criticism. As many of you know, law students have strong opinions on how to succeed. Despite this, I have found myself thriving the most when I listened to myself and forged my own path. I also received criticism for my decision not to join a journal and my decision to include my pageant experience on my resume. I got a job at my dream firm, so I must have been doing something right.

My advice to future Latina lawyers? Find what you are good at and what makes you happy. Even if it is unconventional, it will make you stand out and be an even more successful version of yourself and a more interesting job candidate. Even more importantly, when you look around the room at the other students in your class, stop doubting your abilities. You have more to offer than you know. Every Latina has her own journey. The legal profession needs us. You know why? Because we are different and we add to the field, even if you don’t fit into what the profession thinks a Latina looks like.

 Thank you so much for sharing this story with us, Marisa! And congratulations on your upcoming graduation! If you'd like to be featured on the Lawtina Shop's community website, and on social media- please email LawtionaStories@gmail.com with your story and photo.