Fernando Almaraz, ’23, está en el Programa de Honores Acelerados (AHP) en la Escuela de Leyes McGeorge. Almaraz escogió perseguir sus estudios legales en McGeorge por varias razones: El programa AHP provee una manera más rapida de terminar la escuela de leyes que la ruta tradicional de tres años, la ubicación de McGeorge en la capital del estado, la facultad experta, y el sentido de la comunidad que construye McGeorge.

Después de graduarse, Almaraz quiere trabajar dentro de la industria agrícola porque él es del valle central y tiene experiencia trabajando en un viñedo. El verano pasado, Almaraz pudo hacer una observación en la Federación de Oficinas Agrícolas de California y trabaja en una variedad de desafíos agrícolas impactando California.

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Programa Acelerado de Honores.

Yanin Ortega is a rising second-year student at McGeorge School of Law.  

As part of McGeorge School of Law’s Salzburg Graduate Study Abroad Program, I was lucky enough to participate in the European Law in Practice internship. I wanted to study abroad because of the enriching cultural experience that comes with living in a foreign country as well as learning about foreign legal and education systems. I think it is important to learn from an international perspective because it allows for a deeper understanding of certain customs and traditions. Gaining this experience is so helpful to life back home both personally and professionally because it allows me to be more compassionate and understanding, which will allow me to better contribute to the legal community.  

Before spending three weeks taking law classes in Salzburg, I worked at the Università di Parma in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy as a research assistant with Professor of Law Stefano Maffei. During the internship, I researched international legal cases that addressed instances where solitary confinement was challenged due to breaches of human rights. I learned how to use various databases more efficiently to gather the international resources that I needed. I also researched recent cases of extradition in preparation for the International Extradition and the European Arrest Warrant Advanced Seminar that Professor Maffei leads in Sarnico, Italy. The Extradition Seminar allowed me to learn from defense attorneys and prosecutors who work on extradition cases as well as what is required for extradition.  

I also participated as a storyteller in the yearly English For Law & International Transactions (EFLIT) educational retreat in Sarnico that is designed to teach Italian law professionals the basics of the American legal system as well as legal English. As a storyteller, I prepared an explanation of a recent legal topic from the U.S. and presented it to small groups of Italian legal professionals to facilitate a discussion where the group would learn how the U.S. handled a certain issue, and I would learn how Italy may handle the legal issue. My topic covered cancel culture in the U.S., which was something the Italian professionals saw from a different perspective. These small groups allowed for great discussion and comparison of the legal systems and a greater understanding of cultural customs. I was able to improve my public speaking skills and gain the confidence to teach a group and facilitate an interactive discussion.  

This experience really helped me improve my research and writing skills, so that I was able to ensure my research is thorough and focused on the topic of interest. I also learned a lot about myself by having the courage to be away from home for so long in a foreign country where I don’t speak the native language. I gained the ability to be patient with people, adapt, and creatively find solutions to things as simple as getting groceries or ordering coffee in another language. I am grateful for the incredible experience that McGeorge School of Law has offered me to improve my skills, and I am ready to continue into my second year more focused and excited for what the future holds. 

By Yanin Ortega, a rising second-year student at McGeorge School of Law.  

Crystal Rodriguez is a third-year law student at McGeorge School of Law. 

Everyone experiences that one life-changing moment that shapes their identity and molds their career choices, mine was when I was fifteen.  

My father had been working as an executive chef at a country club, and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. They had saved up enough money to buy a house, and for a moment, life was good. But unfortunately, the effects of the 2008 financial crisis would soon find its way to us, and my father was laid off from his job. That one calm moment was gone. The house that my parents had saved up for became a burden, with the payments exceeding what my father could pay, having only an unemployment check to sustain a family of five.  

Through bankruptcy however, we were able to stay afloat and keep our house. It was at this moment that I decided I wanted to help people who may not have the knowledge or resources to handle situations like this on their own. I wanted to become knowledgeable in this area in order to become an advocate for those in similar situations to my family.  

Fast-forward some years later, and I am confronted with the question of where I want to go to law school. Since I began my journey with an interest in bankruptcy, I wanted to look for a place where I could explore this interest further. Out of all the schools I applied to, McGeorge School of Law was the only one that had a legal clinic dedicated to bankruptcy. It felt like a sign, and I followed it to McGeorge. The moment I was able to, I applied to participate in the Bankruptcy Clinic and was accepted into the program at the beginning of my 2L year. I have been active in the Clinic ever since.  

The first thing you learn in both the Bankruptcy Clinic and the class is that the purpose of a bankruptcy is to give debtors a “fresh start.” This is achieved by the “discharge” at the end of the bankruptcy that in theory leaves the person debt-free to start over. At the Clinic, we focus on Chapter 7 Bankruptcies, which are considered “full liquidation” bankruptcies where assets are sold to repay debt. Students at the Clinic conduct client calls and interviews, as well as draft bankruptcy petitions for filing.  

I have loved every interaction that I’ve had with clients at the Clinic, and the relief I see on their faces once we file the petition is priceless. Just like my family, many of our clients are seeking aid after dealing with financial hardship, which oftentimes is out of their control. My experience with the Clinic has been truly remarkable and has continued my passion to work in the bankruptcy field.  

Bankruptcy is one of those things that people view very negatively, whether it be that it will affect your credit score or that people will treat you differently when you list it on an application. While there are inevitable consequences of filing for bankruptcy, I don’t view it as negative. I view it for its purpose, to give debtors a “fresh start,” a lifejacket thrown to them when they are drowning. It is with this mentality that I continue to appreciate the good that this field can do for people. 

I can’t wait to continue learning and growing more in this area of the law in both my externship this fall with the Bankruptcy Court and my role as a team leader for the Bankruptcy Clinic in the spring. My hope is to continue in this sector post-grad in some capacity because of the flame it ignited in me so many years ago. 

By Crystal Rodriguez, a third-year law student at McGeorge School of Law. 

Fernando Almaraz, ’23, is in the Accelerated Honors Program (AHP) at McGeorge School of Law. Almaraz chose to pursue his legal studies at McGeorge for three reasons:

  1. The AHP program provided Almaraz with a way to finish law school faster than the traditional three-year route.
  2. McGeorge’s location in the state’s capital allows him the opportunity to work for a variety of different organizations that not only have a state impact, but a national impact too.
  3. The professors and sense of community that McGeorge builds. Because McGeorge has smaller class sizes than other institutions, Almaraz has closer and stronger relationships with his professors and classmates.

After graduation, Almaraz would like to work within the agricultural industry because he is from the Central Valley and has a background working at a winery. Last summer, Almaraz was able to extern at the California Farm Bureau Federation and work on a variety of agricultural issues impacting California.

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A man in a suit smiles for a portrait
Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli is a McGeorge School of Law alumnus and longtime lobbyist. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

As a proud McGeorge School of Law graduate of the Class of 1992 day division, Adjunct Professor for the past 8 years, and member of the Capital Center for Law & Policy Advisory Board, I am always happy to meet and advise current and prospective students, particularly in the Capital Lawyering Concentration. One of the main points I repeatedly make is that we have such a large, diverse, and successful alumni network at McGeorge, particularly in the capital lawyering field.

As a result, graduates have many opportunities to connect with alumni who are practicing law or they are engaged in government affairs work, or are employed by local, state, or federal government bodies. That means McGeorge graduates can connect with lots of experts in the capital lawyering field and hopefully find mentors and alumni who will provide career advice and perhaps even become colleagues in the future.

Since I was recruited to teach at McGeorge, interacting with students is the most rewarding aspect. I enjoy sharing my passion for the lawmaking process and explaining in detail what I do as a lobbyist and why a career in public service or the public policy arena can be exciting, challenging, and meaningful. My students also get to meet and talk with leading government and private sector figures who share their interesting career development and often how law school influenced their work and career paths. The Capital Lawyering Concentration at McGeorge is a unique program that prepares our graduates for successful public service careers, and it is a privilege to be a part of it.

By Chris Micheli, ’92. Micheli is a lobbyist with Aprea & Micheli and an adjunct professor at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.

Sue Ann Van Dermyden’s practice focuses on conducting workplace and Title IX investigations. Van Dermyden, ’93, is a founding and senior partner of Van Dermyden Makus Law Corporation. The firm has five offices located throughout Arizona and California.

Van Dermyden serves on the McGeorge School of Law Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Van Dermyden’s advice for first-year law students is to make meaningful connections during law school because those connections will be important throughout your legal career.

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Catherine Mariano, ’11, is a Los Angeles County District Attorney who prosecutes sex crimes. Mariano credits her education as one of the reasons she is an effective trial advocate. She said that McGeorge School of Law prepared her well for her career because of the practical experience that McGeorge offers, which isn’t available at every law school.

Mariano’s favorite thing about McGeorge is the camaraderie she felt with her peers as well as the school’s faculty and staff. Mariano said going to law school at McGeorge means you’ve been born into a family that starts when you become a student and continues when you become a practicing attorney.

Mariano got involved with the alumni board because she loved everything about her law school experience and wanted to help current students have that same positive experience.

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Learn more about the Alumni Board.

Mustafa Karim, ’23, graduated from McGeorge School of Law in May. Karim chose to pursue his legal studies at McGeorge because of the school’s location in Sacramento and the strength of its Office of Career Services.

Karim served as the vice president of the Middle Eastern South Asian Association and said it was a great way to connect with other students with similar backgrounds. Karim was also involved in the Elder and Health Law Clinic for a full school year. Under attorney supervision, Karim provided legal representation to low-income elderly clients in the Sacramento area.

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Uriel Peña, ’23, graduated from McGeorge School of Law in May. Peña chose McGeorge School of Law because of the school’s location near the California State Capitol and networking opportunities in the Capitol and throughout the state.

During his time at McGeorge, he participated in the Latinx Law Student Association and the Public Legal Services Society. Peña also participated in the trial advocacy program at McGeorge. Peña recommends McGeorge’s JD program for those who are interested in law school because of the close-knit community that McGeorge fosters.

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Elizabeth Rocha Zuñiga, ’24, is interested in public interest work and immigration law. She was drawn to McGeorge School of Law because of its Immigration Law Clinic and the passion that McGeorge has for community building. She chose to attend law school because she is from an underserved community and recognized at a young age how important a resource can be. Zuñiga wants to make a difference and be a leader in her community.

Last summer, Zuñiga served as a 2022 Dan Bradley Fellow and worked for the California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., one of the largest nonprofits in California. This summer, she will be working through California Central Legal Services (CCLS). CCLS is a private nonprofit public interest law firm established for the purpose of providing free legal assistance to low-income individuals, families, organizations, and communities. Recently, Zuñiga started volunteering at McGeorge’s Immigration Law Clinic as well.

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