A Different Perspective to Being a Lawyer
When I immigrated to the United States (January 20, 2000), I remember the excitement of the countless opportunities that laid ahead. My birth country, Colombia, with all of its problems and drug wars, was a difficult place to leave but America promised freedom, and I was seeking that freedom.
I always knew I wanted to study law (my grandfather, parents, uncles, and sister are Colombian attorneys). However, once in the United States, the roadblock to becoming a lawyer was self-evident. Most (not to say all) of my English as a Second Language teachers would remind me that English is the lawyer’s craft… and I was very far from ever mastering the skill.
The defeatisms, negativism, and in some occasions, prejudice of those who told me “you cannot do that,” “it will be impossible,” “it will be expensive,” and “law school will be extra difficult for you,” would seem to be too much to overcome for a young immigrant who wanted to be a lawyer. However, I was too stubborn to simply give up on the promised freedom. What made a difference for me was my ability focus on the goal. I wanted to be a lawyer… that was all there was to it. I did not look at how much more work I still had to do, but how much work I had already accomplished. Problems became opportunities to learn. Challenges were expected.
I became a citizen in 2007, and through my studies at Gonzaga, I started to see the not so well publicized reality. American constitutional guarantees, in way too many circumstances, are only given to those who have the monetary means to afford counsel. If an individual is labeled as “undocumented” or “illegal,” the system will provide more rights and protections to property than it would to that individual. This injustice, among several others, can be viewed as impossible to change; they are certainly expensive to litigate, and it is easy to become discouraged.
Clients can be difficult and ungrateful. Opposing counsel and the court can be just as bad (if not worse). Maybe all lawyers should be too stubborn to simply give up on the promised justice.
Maybe we just need to focus on the goal. Focusing on why things are difficult or unfair will get us nowhere. There are entire nations and populations that lack many of the rights that we have. Colombia is one of those nations. As attorneys, we need to be grateful for the opportunity to practice law. It is a true privilege. Problems and challenges are expected.
Hector Quiroga, a graduate from Gonzaga University School of Law, works with his wife, Casey Quiroga, a graduate of the same law school, in Spokane Valley, Washington. Together, they founded the Quiroga Law Office, PLLC.