- John Garza shares anecdotes and experiences from his law school experience to his dynamic career, where he worked for better diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.
My legal career began while still in law school when I served as a clerk in Chevron's legal department and then transitioned to serve as an intern at the Texas Supreme Court. After graduation, I spent five years practicing at small, medium, and large law firms before a twenty-year in-house career. I have had a broad range of experiences over the years-- my next adventure may be teaching.
Without question, my experiences with the ABA have highlighted my career! While my jobs have allowed me to serve my clients' interests, the ABA has allowed me to be engaged in something much larger. From my earliest experiences with the ABA during law school in the Nineties, to my more recent opportunities serving with the ABA Fund for Justice and Education(“FJE”), ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund (“LOSF”)and both the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession (“CREPD”) and the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, I have seen the ABA lead through example as an inclusive professional organization serving its members, the profession, and our American society. I am pleased to have made a small ripple.
Yes, I would have managed my finances better. There is an old saying: Live like a lawyer while in law school, you'll live like a student after. Law school costs were challenging in the Nineties but are an even bigger burden on students today. I paid off my undergraduate student loans before entering law school, but the law school loan payments each month definitely impacted my career strategies. I effectively had a mortgage payment without a house!
Search your soul to determine your true path. A legal career serving others is very, very rewarding, but the demands and sacrifices are many. If you reconcile this reality early, you will find personal satisfaction in this honorable profession.
The profession has made gains toward being a more inclusive environment for women and minorities. I can recall attending MDL hearings during my baby lawyer days when I could count on one hand the number of women and minority attorneys in the courtroom. Today, law schools are producing a much more diverse and prepared collection of lawyers who will expand the profession, as representation matters.
I joined the ABA while in law school and served as the National President of the Hispanic National Bar Association's Law Student Division (HNBA-LSD) where I also served as a liaison to the ABA Law Student Division (LSD). I continued in a similar role after graduation and found a home in the ABA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) where I met some amazing leaders and made lifelong friends. Almost 30 years later, they can't get rid of me!
The ABA and the SLD have plenty of benefits to offer. The collection of free and affordable CLE offered is second to none. You can count on the ABA to remain on the cutting edge with timely topics from the most qualified sources. The SLD has great resources for those lawyers who are advancing in their current career or transitioning to their next path. Personally, I would be lost without the many ABA travel benefit partners.
I truly appreciate my opportunity to chair the CREPD where I made a ripple of change for the betterment of the profession and members. ABA Goal III remains an important piece in the ABA's role in our profession and American society. Its objectives are to: “Promote full and equal participation in the ABA, our profession, and the justice system by all persons;” and to “Eliminate bias in the legal profession and Justice System.”
After undergrad, I wanted to serve overseas with the State department. I always have had an adventurous spirit to travel the world and see other cultures. I considered a specialized graduate school degree but my mom encouraged me to go to law school since she believed a law degree would provide more options should I elect not to pursue overseas work later. Fortunately, I listened to her good advice and have had an amazing career as a lawyer.