Phoenix attorney Alex Navidad advises Latino law-school graduates to enter the work world “practice ready” — and ready to hit the streets to find clients.
While that’s good advice for any new lawyer, Navidad, a Salvadoran immigrant on the advisory board of the Phoenix School of Law, tailors his message especially for Hispanic students.
Hispanics who aspire to be attorneys, he says, have the skill sets needed to serve a growing law clientele: the Latino market.
His firm Navidad, Leal & Silva focuses on immigration law and criminal defense. The nuances of legal services in the immigration field are multiplying rapidly, he says.
Furthermore, while most law students dream of joining a big law firm when they graduate, hoping to become a partner one day, that dream may be unrealistic, Navidad adds.
“There is not a lot of Latino representation in big law firms,” he says. “And not everyone is going to become a partner.”
In addition, big law firms absorbing the top Latino law talent doesn’t serve community needs, he says. Studies show that the Latino legal top talent performs much less community work than average academic performers, he says.
“We need more Latinos to start their own firms, and to be successful at it,” he says. “I really believe that those Latinos who go into law have a responsibility to give back to the community.”
New and future Hispanic law grads, he says, should be creating their own model of professional and personal success. Time for community work and family as just as important as working long hours in a big law firm to make big money, he says.
“Owning your own business gives you that flexibility, while working for others may limit you,” he says.
The good news is this new model is based on skills Hispanic already have. Latinos have built-in abilities, such as cultural sensitivity, Spanish-language communication skills, and a willingness to volunteer for good deeds in the community.
All these qualities earn the trust of the burgeoning population of native-born and recently immigrated Hispanic who need legal services.
While local law firms like Phillips & Associates advertise extensively to Hispanics, he says, Latino-owned law firms will have an advantage.
“Let’s face it, it is human nature to be comfortable with someone who looks like you,” he says.