On her trips home to visit her parents in Los Baños, California in the Central Valley, where the land is studded with tomatoes and cattle farms, 2L Liliana Garcia often lends a hand to her parents.
Both retired agricultural workers from Zacatecas, Mexico, the Garcias benefit from their second daughter’s fluent English, her sharp analytical mind, and her generous heart. “I always want to give back to my parents. We might have had less growing up,” she said, “but I actually had more support emotionally, and that is what people need to get through anything.” Garcia is inspired by her father, who set up a refuge in his house for arriving farmworkers when he first came to the country. “He would always help them find housing and employment,” she said, as she talked about how, decades later, people still came to her house to ask for her dad.
Garcia graduated valedictorian from her high school, and went on to complete a Bachelor’s in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz in just three years. Her path is now institutionalized as the UCSC/UCHastings 3 + 3 accelerated law degree program. Even though she didn’t know much about legal practice, a professor’s challenge encouraged her to consider applying to law school. Ultimately, a long, heartfelt conversation with her boyfriend, Dominic, also a UCSC graduate, gave her the courage to apply to Hastings. “I met my first lawyer when I came to law school,” she said. “I had never gone to court and had never thought about the law as an academic subject. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t break it!”
At UC Hastings, Garcia has enjoyed serving as treasurer for the student Latino organization, La Raza, and helping out with its Day at Law school program, which brings low-income students from area schools onto the UC Hastings campus for a taste of legal education. Garcia has also taken advantage of the many professional resources of the UC Hastings community. Last summer, she had an externship with Judge John S. Salazar in Santa Cruz County. She shadowed the judge, observed trials and even got to work on some briefs. She got the position after meeting Judge Salazar at a Bar Association event. “The externship was such a great experience! Not only did I learn about every aspect of the criminal law, from arraignments to jury trials, but also received mentoring that will be invaluable in my future legal career.”
Now she works part time as a legal assistant at a boutique immigration firm where she helps a solo practitioner with family-based immigration, removal proceedings and some asylum cases. “My favorite part is actually talking with clients,” she said, and explained how delighted she was to finally meet a man whose DACA application she had been laboring over for weeks. “It’s a stack of papers to request a delay on deportation for childhood arrivals, and after you complete and file one of those, you feel like you know the person.” She saw her client walk in to the office: “My soul lit up! I was really excited to meet him in person and see who I was doing it for. Here was the face behind all my dedication,” she said.
These practical experiences in combination with her classes have helped her discover what she likes and doesn’t like about legal practice. She isn’t cut out for criminal law, and moot court, despite her great performance, didn’t inspire, mostly because she sees herself as a collaborator, not an adversary. But she loved a recent course of Professor Hadar Aviram’s on criminalization and social control. Garcia is driven to build her career in public service law, since she is driven to see social change happen. “What fascinates me isn’t the black letter law, but the theoretical concept and how it plays out in the real world,” she said.