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When did you first fall in love with the law? Justice?

I've had an interest in the legislative process since high school. I volunteered for a non-profit organization dedicated to children's advocacy, and I was involved with efforts to lobby on behalf of a bill to overhaul student discipline policies in public schools statewide. When I went to law school, I envisioned a career working on Capitol Hill. But I soon discovered a passion for courtroom advocacy and I've been pursuing a career in litigation ever since.

Who has helped you along the way and what have you done to pay that help forward?

I've had numerous mentors over the years — from high school, throughout college, during law school, and most certainly in my first years of law practice. One of my most rewarding professional experiences as a lawyer was clerking at the New Mexico Supreme Court, and I've maintained a wonderful relationship with the judge I worked for. I encourage all law students I meet to consider judicial clerkships after law school (I didn't know about this job, or what it meant for a young lawyer's career until mid-way through law school). I've also benefited significantly from formal and informal mentors and sponsors I've worked with at my firm and others I've come in contact with through state and national bar associations. I try to engage with law students and young lawyers I meet and offer the same advice and guidance that I've received over the years.

What are some challenges you’ve faced in your legal career as a man of color?

Like many men of color in the legal profession, I'm the first lawyer in my family. I didn't have the benefit of knowing someone who'd already broken into the profession and successfully navigated through it who could help me chart a path to success. I didn't expect that networking would be as vital to professional success as it is in this profession. Building a network from scratch has been a tremendous challenge for me, and I think it can be especially challenging to men of color.

What advice do you have for other men of color in their first five years of practice?

(1) Make yourself indispensable at work: put in the hours, do the research, and deliver solid work product.

(2) Build a team of mentors and sponsors: find co-workers and supervisors that you admire and seek opportunities to work with them.

(3) Expand your professional network: get involved in your local, state, and national bar associations.

Tell us about some of your hobbies outside of practicing law.

I like watching movies and trashy reality TV series, and I enjoy following college basketball

What are some personal experiences you’ve had along the way that have helped you in your career?

During my last semester in law school, my clinic director and his teaching assistant encouraged me to consider and apply for a judicial clerkship. Even though I missed the window to apply for a position during my first year out of law school — when most people traditionally apply for such positions. It was a hard choice to make to start my career at a law firm, only to then leave after a year to pursue a clerkship and then re-apply for a full-time job after a one-year clerkship. My family did not understand what I was doing, nor did they encourage it. But it's the best decision I could have made in the first year of my career, and it put me on the path I'm on today.

Tomas Garcia is a litigation associate at Modrall Sperling in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His practice includes a variety of commercial, healthcare, torts/personal injury, and transportation litigation. Tomas graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 2011 and previously served as a law clerk to the Honorable Justice Charles W. Daniels of the New Mexico Supreme Court. Tomas is the ABA YLD liaison to the Section of Litigation. He is a former chair of the State Bar of New Mexico Young Lawyers Division.