Lewis Brisbois Celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month 2022

September 15, 2022

Lewis Brisbois is pleased to be celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month this year from September 15 through October 15. In honor of this month of recognition, we look forward to sharing a series of spotlight posts featuring our Hispanic American colleagues reflecting upon the importance of this month and mentorship within the Hispanic and legal communities.

(September 15, 2022) - Lewis Brisbois is pleased to be celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month this year from September 15 through October 15. In honor of this month of recognition, we look forward to sharing a series of spotlight posts featuring our Hispanic American colleagues reflecting upon the importance of this month and mentorship within the Hispanic and legal communities. We begin this series with an opening message from the firm’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Committee. Keep an eye on this page and the firm's social media feeds for more posts in the coming weeks. Learn more about DEI at Lewis Brisbois here.

The members of Lewis Brisbois’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, on behalf of everyone at the firm, invite you to join us in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15. During this event, we will be shining a spotlight on the Hispanic American members of the Lewis Brisbois family by sharing a series of posts in which these individuals will reflect upon the impact that mentorship has had on their professional and personal experiences.     We look forward to honoring our Hispanic American colleagues as well as the many generations of Hispanic Americans who have enriched our nation and communities. We are grateful for their contributions and for the opportunity to learn from their unique perspectives.

The first contribution in our National Hispanic Heritage Month spotlight series comes from Los Angeles Partner Leo Bautista, who expresses gratitude for his own mentors and discusses his enjoyment of mentoring others. He also acknowledges the “huge contributions” that members of the Hispanic community have made to our nation.

Leo is a member of the firm's Intellectual Property & Technology Group and co-chair of its Franchise & Distribution and Trade Secrets & Non-Compete Disputes Practices. A certified specialist of franchise and distribution law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, Leo focuses his practice on intellectual property, commercial litigation, and franchising matters.

Learn more about Leo’s professional experience here.

“National Hispanic Heritage Month gives us all a chance to recognize and appreciate the huge contributions that Hispanic individuals of all origins have made to this country – from fighting on the front lines of its wars, to spicing up its cuisine, to enhancing what is the U.S. economic powerhouse through entrepreneurship, education, investment, consumerism, and labor. It also gives us an opportunity to express gratitude for our mentors and those who came before us, paving the way for the success of future generations. In my career as an attorney, I have benefited tremendously from the mentorship of others. Similarly, I enjoy serving as a mentor to Hispanic individuals within the legal community and beyond as they navigate their own professional and personal journeys. Moreover, in my practice, I represent Hispanic clients zealously, supporting them as they strive to achieve the ‘American Dream.’ I commend Lewis Brisbois for trying to do its part in increasing the representation of Hispanics among members of the Bar, and for its overall commitment to diversity.”

The next contribution in our National Hispanic Heritage Month spotlight series comes from Fort Lauderdale Partner Marcela Gyires, who describes how a mentor helped her navigate a career path in business immigration law that has lasted more than 11 years. She also reflects upon the meaning of this month and giving back to the Hispanic community.

Marcela is a member of Lewis Brisbois' Immigration Practice and is board certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education. She is also a board member of the Palm Beach County Hispanic Bar Association.

Learn more about Marcela's professional experience here.

“As a Mexican immigrant practicing immigration law, Hispanic Heritage Month is special both to me and to many of my clients who seek employment, residence, or citizenship here. It is a time to honor and give thanks to our roots that continue to bring so many special contributions to America. It’s also a time to reflect upon the positive impact that mentorship can have on members of the Hispanic community. Mentorship has been an integral part of my professional development and has allowed me to practice in the particular area of immigration law I find most rewarding. Thirteen years ago, when I was handling removal and deportation-related immigration matters, I became interested in transitioning into business immigration. My supervisor at the time introduced me to a Hispanic attorney who practiced this type of immigration law. This new attorney not only taught me about business immigration, but also assisted me with establishing a practice in this area of law and has served as a mentor to me ever since. As a result of her guidance and friendship, I have been able to follow the career path I desired. I still reach out to her regularly for advice.  Based on my own experience with a wonderful mentor, I  urge my fellow Hispanic professionals to use this month as  a time to form long-lasting bonds with the next generation  of difference makers.”

In our next National Hispanic Heritage Month spotlight post, we hear from Los Angeles Virtual Events Specialist Erendira Ortiz-Zarate, who explains that although she attributes her success to her family and community first, her mentors have also been invaluable in her professional journey, helping her prepare for the transition into the working world.

Erendira is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ Marketing team. She works with attorneys across the firm’s nationwide network to create and execute bespoke presentations for client and industry events.

Learn more about Erendira’s professional experience here

“After moving from Mexico to California, my community significantly shrank. I was in a new place where I didn’t know the customs, language, or even how to write the date anymore. I had family here that had immigrated in the years before mine who helped me in any way they could, but I still felt lost when it came to speaking up in class or passing my ESL tests. Over time, I was able to rely more heavily on my peers and teachers to adapt to my new circumstances. By the time I got to university, I was completely assimilated while still having a strong connection with my cultural roots. However, I didn’t know what to do from there. Most of my blue-collar family wasn’t able to help me prepare for interviews, job applications, or career planning. The emotional support in ‘échale ganas mija’ was my biggest driver as I started navigating what I was going to do after graduation. Luckily, I was able to find some amazing mentors through a Latino organization at my university who prepared me to enter the working world. Through mock interviews, résumé workshops, and even personal pep talks,  I learned more about the corporate world and was able to network successfully within it, eventually leading to my new role at  Lewis Brisbois, working with talented and diverse professionals across the country. While my family and community will always be at the forefront of my success, the mentors I’ve gathered over the years from various classes, jobs, and coincidences will always have a special place in my life.”

The next contribution in our National Hispanic Heritage Month spotlight series comes from Seattle Associate Aryn Seiler, who describes her impactful mentor/mentee relationship with Houston Partner Joelle Nelson. She also calls on partners during this month to view themselves as "a conduit of information, knowledge, resources, access, and friendship" to those who face challenges as a result of their heritage. 

Aryn is a member of the firm's General Liability Practice and has practiced law in Oregon, New Mexico, and Washington. She focuses on the defense of corporate clients of all sizes in litigation concerning professional liability and long-term care. Learn more about her professional experience here.

In our next National Hispanic Heritage Month spotlight, we hear from Fort Lauderdale Virtual Programs Manager Ashley Casanovas, who explains that she always knew mentorship would be “key to [her] success." She describes how seeking out mentors throughout her educational career resulted in the confidence she feels in bringing her “authentic self to work every day.”

Ashley is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ Marketing team. An experienced programming manager, she works with attorneys throughout the firm to create customized virtual presentations for internal, client, and industry events.

Learn more about Ashley’s professional experience here

Next, we hear from Hartford Associate Aaron Arias, who describes how connecting with mentors had several positive impacts on his education and professional career. Urging his Hispanic colleagues to reach out to the next generation of Hispanic professionals, he credits his mentors with allowing him to pursue the legal career that he always desired.

Aaron is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ General Liability Practice. He handles matters throughout all stages of litigation. Outside of his practice, Aaron is an active member of the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association and the George W. Crawford Black Bar Association.

Learn more about Aaron’s professional experience here

In our next National Hispanic Heritage Month spotlight, we hear from Houston Paralegal Elizabeth Trevino, who discusses the many important values that she embodies as a result of her Hispanic heritage as well as her mother’s influence. She also explains that she feels lucky to work in an environment where her colleagues understand the importance of culture and diversity.

In her role as a paralegal, Elizabeth works with Lewis Brisbois’ attorneys on a variety of complex matters. Learn more about her professional experience here.

“I love my Hispanic heritage and I am proud to be a Hispanic woman. My heritage reflects music, art, great food, strength, and traditions – all reflections of who I am. My family migrated from Spain in the 1800s, obtaining land grants for a large part of South Texas. They farmed and ranched to create better lives for their families. They brought over a very rich, family-oriented, and diverse culture. They also suffered discrimination and hardships, but overcame adversity through hard work. In particular, my mother, who was one of my earliest mentors, set a strong example for me and my siblings. While things weren’t always easy, she exemplified an unwavering determination to give her five ‘niños’ a better life. Like her parents and grandparents, she was committed to putting family and tradition first. As a result, she gave me the tools necessary to provide care for those who are struggling, guidance to those facing adversity, and positivity to those having a bad day. I am always here with positivity, a warm smile, and a caring heart. In my professional life, I am thankful to work at Lewis Brisbois – a place where I can share and celebrate my Hispanic heritage with so many wonderful people. My colleagues understand the importance of diversity and culture. My wish is to continue to pass on the traditions of hard work, strength, care, and love to everyone around me.”

Next in our National Hispanic Heritage Month spotlight series, we hear from Los Angeles Billing Clerk Jennifer White, who discusses her deep ties to Los Angeles and its vibrant Hispanic community. She also describes how her mentors at Lewis Brisbois helped her move successfully into the firm’s billing department a few years ago.

For the majority of her 30-year career, Jenny has worked as a litigation secretary within the insurance defense arena of Southern California. Joining Lewis Brisbois in March 2018, she was asked to assist with an accounting project shortly after the onset of the pandemic in 2020. A few months later, she transitioned to the billing department on a full-time basis.

“My life would not be the same without the Hispanic influences that have helped shape it. From the time I was born, I’ve always had strong connections to the Hispanic community, as did my ancestors – beginning with my grandmother, Unruh, who lived in Boyle Heights and whose small family followed her to California in 1921. And I am a proud native Angeleno, like my father, Officer Lawrence White, who was fondly known as ‘Blanco’ when he worked as a patrol officer and detective for the LAPD in the 1960s and ‘70s.  Being so closely tied to the City of Angels and its vibrant Hispanic community has been life-changing. I married into a Hispanic family that has grown to include a diverse blend of cultures. Our holiday gatherings are joyous occasions, with homemade tamales at Christmas and corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day – the latter having morphed beautifully into a fusion of both cuisines. (If you haven’t tried corned beef tacos, trust me when I tell you they are delicious.) Although I cherish Hispanic cuisine, what I value most are the traditions that I’ve created with my own familia pequeña – at home and at Lewis Brisbois. Professionally, I am grateful for the mentorship of my supervisor, Marlen Montellano, and my colleagues in the billing department. They have supported me ever since I decided to join  their team. Likewise, as my grandchildren grow, I hope they will find mentors who look like them and understand where they come from. Maintaining that connection to their culture will ensure a lifetime of success and satisfaction.”

As National Hispanic Heritage Month continues, we hear from Los Angeles e-Discovery Manager Magdalena Diaz, who describes how the mentorship of her parents, friends, and colleagues positively influenced her decisions and career path. As a first generation Mexican American, Magdalena also emphasizes the importance of serving as a mentor to those just starting down the road to fulfilling their dreams.

Magdalena has worked in the legal technology arena for more than two decades. She assists attorneys with their technology needs throughout all phases of litigation, with a particular focus on electronic discovery. Learn more about Magdalena's professional experience here.

In our next spotlight, we hear from Wilmington Partner Rafael X. Zahralddin-Aravena, who discusses his extensive involvement with the Hispanic National Bar Association and his observations of the positive impacts of mentorship within the Hispanic legal community. He also notes Lewis Brisbois’ commitment to diversity as a driving factor in his joining the firm earlier this year.

Rafael is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ Corporate, Bankruptcy, Complex Business & Commercial Litigation, Digital Asset, and Ukraine Conflict Response Practices. A skilled business lawyer and litigator, he has significant experience advising clients in corporate and commercial litigation, insolvency, distressed M&A, regulatory & compliance matters, commercial transactions, cyber law, and cross-border issues.

Read the ABA article Rafael references here and learn more about his professional background here.

Next in our spotlight series, we hear from San Bernardino Deposition Clerk Edwyn Gutierrez, who describes how his parents, teachers, coaches, and even friends’ parents served as his mentors and taught him important lessons. He notes that the Hispanic community has embodied the values of hard work and selflessness for decades, and encourages others to practice kindness and compassion.

Edwyn joined Lewis Brisbois just over a year ago following a career outside the legal industry. He assists attorneys with all aspects of depositions and other discovery-related matters and provides general clerical support in a variety of litigation. Learn more about his professional experience here.

As we near the end of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we hear from Orange County Associate Laura Lopez, who describes how the value of community – prevalent in Latin culture – has allowed her to experience the benefits of personal and professional mentorship. She urges all attorneys to invest time in mentoring others, as she believes this mentorship ultimately will help shape the practice of law.

Laura is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ Construction Practice. Fluent in Spanish, she regularly handles all phases of litigation in construction matters, as well as cases involving healthcare, insurance defense, and probate issues. Learn more about Laura’s professional background here.

“Hispanic Heritage Month is a time when I celebrate my Latin heritage and its rich culture centered around community. In my experience, this value of community has cultivated numerous opportunities for mentorship. My first memories of mentorship came in the form of learning family recipes that were passed down from generation to generation through the celebrated ritual of tradition. I have had tremendous mentors within my family and throughout my professional career. My mentors understood the value in investing their time and knowledge into mentees like me. I absorbed their wisdom to hone my own skills and way of thinking. My mentors’ belief in me gave me the courage and  confidence to embrace new experiences like joining the moot court  team in law school and serving as second chair for a bench trial in  my first year of practice. My mentors also taught me the value of civility and professional advocacy. I saw them lead by example in their own practices and in  their approach to problem solving. The most valuable aspect of  being a mentee was the space my mentors created for me to be  curious and learn. I am thankful to be at Lewis Brisbois, a firm that understands the value of fostering a community of diverse thought and active participation in propelling excellence in the practice of law. I encourage all my fellow attorneys to share their unique experiences. Your investment in others will help shape future generations of attorneys and, ultimately, the practice of law.”

In our final National Hispanic Heritage Month spotlight post, we hear from New York Associate Zac Candelaria, who discusses how the energy that various mentors invested in him impacted his experiences and allowed him to succeed. In particular, he shares how the Latino coaches of his high school travel baseball team helped him learn the meaning of teamwork. He also expresses gratitude for the opportunity to be part of Lewis Brisbois’ diverse community.

Zac is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ General Liability Practice. He focuses on the defense of property owners and management companies in premises liability, negligent hiring/supervision, and general liability matters. Learn more about his professional background here.

As National Hispanic Heritage Month 2022 comes to an end, we share a closing message from our DEI committee. Learn more about DEI at Lewis Brisbois here.

As National Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, the members of Lewis Brisbois’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee extend a heartfelt thanks to all of the individuals who contributed to our month-long spotlight series on the importance of mentorship within the Hispanic American community. Notably, although the personal and professional paths of these individuals varied, certain themes and sentiments appeared consistently throughout their stories.      Many reflections included descriptions of family members who mentored by example through displays of hard work and perseverance. They also included discussions of the confidence gained from connecting with Hispanic mentors who could understand and identify with the particular challenges of their mentees. Moreover, they expressed gratitude for professional colleagues and the inclusive, supportive environment at Lewis Brisbois.      We have learned valuable lessons from these moving and unique perspectives, and we look forward to celebrating again next year!