Career Paths: Karen Vallejos-Corrales ’20L
Karen Vallejos-Corrales ’20L is from Arlington, VA, and attended Southwestern Adventist University for her undergraduate degree. She interned her first summer for the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia and spent her second summer as a law clerk for a Garcia Hernandez Sawhney LLP., a law firm that specializes in education law.
Where will you be working after graduation, and in what practice area?
I plan to work for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA), an organization that provides free legal services to low-income people facing most forms of civil legal problems. A large part of the work I will be doing with TRLA will relate to family, labor & employment, bankruptcy, housing, immigration, environmental, and civil rights law.
Did you know coming into law school that you wanted to work in this field?
Prior to law school, I was not sure what area of law I wanted to practice. Still, I knew I had developed a strong interest in pursuing a career related to education, immigration, and civil rights. During my undergraduate years, I interned on the Hill, The Center for American Progress, and the Advancement Project, a civil rights legal organization. After graduating, I accepted a fellowship with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and then worked as a Program Administrator at NovaSalud, Inc., a community health nonprofit. I experienced how government works with organizations that affect social change, and these experiences shaped my trajectory in law school and led me to seek out opportunities in which I could continue developing experience in such areas.
What role did the size and location of the legal aid office play in the search and decision process?
I was very open to working in offices in any region of the United States. However, when I got the offer, I picked a legal aid office in Texas because I had spent my undergraduate years in the state. I knew I would be comfortable starting my career there.
I also wanted to work for an office that I believed would give me a wide range of exposure to different areas of law while giving me the resources to provide zealous advocacy and holistic services to my clients. TRLA offered me the opportunity to gain exposure to a large range of practice areas as a first-year attorney. TRLA is the nation’s third-largest legal aid provider and the largest in Texas. TRLA offers free civil legal services to residents in 68 Southwest Texas counties and specializes in more than 45 practice areas. I toured four of their offices and felt like I could do amazing work in every location I visited. TRLA’s large size allowed me the opportunity to pick the office I preferred based on both the location and my interests.
Was there anything in your law school or summer job experience that confirmed this career choice?
The work I did with the Washington and Lee Immigrant Rights Clinic confirmed that I enjoyed working directly with clients and providing holistic services to individuals. Working for a clinic gave me significant hands-on experience by allowing me to manage real caseloads and work directly with clients on their cases. Working directly with clients and knowing that I had an impact on someone’s life was rewarding, and this solidified my interest in seeking job opportunities that allowed me to continue to work with clients and serve the underrepresented.
What classes do you think are helpful to prepare for this job?
My property, family, and immigration law classes will most likely be helpful in this new position.
Can you describe the job search process?
I applied through the Equal Justice Works (EJW) Conference in Washington, D.C.
I was given an initial interview with the Director of Recruitment in person. I then did a second phone interview with the Executive Director. After my second interview, I was offered the position and invited to tour four of their offices. Once I visited all four, I knew I would be happy working for them and accepted the position.
What are you most looking forward to about this job?
I am looking forward to working with the amazing lawyers and staff members I met when I visited the TRLA offices. Every employee I met was passionate about their work and proud of their ability to represent and protect people’s rights.