By Patricia Castorena, Principal at The Law Offices of Patricia D. Castorena
I had the pleasure of meeting with a young Latina who was recently admitted to law school, who asked me why I decided to open my own law office. As I reflected on this life changing decision, I realized that there is no simple answer.
Your own personal journey and experiences shape your life decisions. If you sit back and reflect, the right path to embark on will come to you.
Have you ever been asked (or have asked) how you knew the man you married was the one? Most people say, “I just knew.” I opened my own law office because I just knew. It was the right time in my life. All of my relevant life experiences aligned at the right moment in time.
My decision to open my own law practice stemmed from my lifelong passion to serve the immigrant community. My parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the 1970s and became Legal Permanent Residents through the 1986 Amnesty Program.
I remember playing in the courtyard at the Center for Employment Training (CET) in San Jose while my parents attended the 40 hour civics education course to obtain their residency, never knowing that I would one day return to CET as the Legal Services Manager for the Immigration and Citizenship Program.
Throughout my education and work history, I gravitated towards the non-profit, legal services sector. Serving the immigrant population brought me great joy and fulfillment. I never once questioned that this was my vocation. However, aside from an excerpt I wrote in college, I never dreamed or imagined that I would one day open my own law firm.
Once at CET in my full-time attorney position, I witnessed a great need for Spanish-speaking, Latina immigration attorneys in solo practice. Many low-income individuals needed specialized assistance for complicated immigration matters that we were unable to handle due to issues of capacity and experience.
Through this realization, I pondered what it would mean for me to leave my dream job and open my own practice. However, I was daunted by a myriad of concerns. How will I get clients? Will I be able to pay my expenses? And I also came to a different and difficult realization that my dream job came with a different reality: lower pay, longer hours, and a challenging work/life balance. Through it all, my commitment to providing immigration legal services to the most vulnerable in our community remained steadfast.
Then one day, I just knew. The day after Valentine’s Day in 2012, I gave my one month resignation and officially launched my law practice on April 1, 2012. Three years later, it is a decision I have never regretted. In that moment in time, I pushed forward and never doubted that I would succeed in fulfilling my vocation: to help the immigrant community.
Every day that enter my law office, I am humbled that I get to do my life’s work, that I meet amazing individuals that have persevered in a foreign country, and that against all odds remain optimistic about their future and their children’s future. My clients gave me hope and resilience that one day we will live in a country that truly respects the rights of immigrants to live with legal status and without fear of deportation.
I am also fortunate to work alongside highly intelligent and articulate legal assistants and college interns that also seek to better the lives of our immigrant community. I hope in turn they lead our country to a better future for our immigrants.
It is a great privilege to provide my clients with knowledge of their legal rights and to provide legal services to assist them in gaining legal status in the United States. I feel an immense joy knowing that I am able to provide them with an understanding of the immigration process. As a Latina small business owner, I get to work on my own terms and serve my community. There is no better sense of fulfillment than knowing your experiences led you to this moment.
About the Author:
Patricia D. Castorena, HLI 2011, is the principal at The Law Office of Patricia D. Castorena which serves and educates the immigrant community through premier legal representation. Ms. Castorena’s law office specializes in family-based immigration matters, consular processing, adjustment of status, hardship waivers, naturalization, DACA, U Visas, removal defense, criminal and traffic defense, and record clearances.