A Latina’s Pathway to Esquire
You were raised by a single mother in a household of five. What was that like for you?
I saw my mother go through some really rough times while I was growing up. My biological father was physically and verbally abusive and that definitely left some emotional scars. My mother was able to get a permanent restraining order after she divorced him. I know walking into the courtroom and having to face him during the restraining order hearing was really difficult for her, but she did to protect us. I knew I wanted to be a lawyer ever since I was a little girl, but witnessing her strength and courage has made me fight harder for the clients I have helped in my career.
I am glad you brought that up! Law school isn’t for anyone, it’s a difficult experience, so how did you manage to go to law school, work at a Law Firm, be a wife, and head of your household? What challenges did you face?
Honestly, I just took it one week at a time. I had to live in fragments of a couple of days at a time so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed. I tried to take on a lot of things during law school but that’s only because I felt like I was there for such a short time. Three years really doesn’t feel like three years when you’re in professional school. The biggest challenge was knowing when to stop and take a break.
What does it mean to you to be the first college graduate student in your family?
It means that we’re a tenacious bunch! The importance of education is not really emphasized in Hispanic/Latinx homes for many reasons. A lot of it is cultural, but then there’s also language barriers, economic obstacles, etc. I think the most important thing is that I value higher education and I will pass that on to my future generations.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I have gotten a lot of good advice over the years because I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by a lot of very wise people. I think the best advice I’ve ever been given was regarding the CA bar exam. I was told that the secret to passing the bar was first believing that I can actually pass it on the first try. It might sound a little obvious but it really hit home for me because every time someone would ask me about how nervous I was to take the exam, I would talk about it in a third-person point of view as if I was just narrating a part of my life. I realized that thinking like that about the bar exam, or about anything else in my life for that matter, really made me feel powerless. So now whenever I set a goal for myself, I approach it with the mentality that it is something that I can actually accomplish and not something that I just hope for or aspire.
What are some work habits that help you stay productive and on track to reach your goals?
I have always been a “to-do” list type of girl but this year I have really stepped outside of just making lists and have also started to create vision boards (Thanks to GetInspo!) I think visualizing my goals has really helped me embrace them and work harder.
What advice do you wish you could go back and give your younger self?
I had a really tough childhood. As I mentioned earlier, my biological father was verbally and physically abusive. My family was also very poor. You would think that all those things would discourage me from working hard and would make me give up on my dreams, but they actually made me work harder and want more from life. Don’t get me wrong, I really struggled with depression, so I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to just hang in there because I end up kicking a** later on in life!
“The statistics for someone with my background were never in my favor and it has been a long and winding road, but I am so proud of myself for it.”
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Going to law school definitely! The statistics for someone with my background were never in my favor and it has been a long and winding road, but I am so proud of myself for it. Besides that, I am just proud of how far my family has come. Despite everything life has thrown our way, my siblings, my mother, and I have prospered. And I don’t just mean financial prosperity (although I am thankful for all the career opportunities we have all gotten) but also emotional prosperity, and most importantly, peace.
What is one thing you wish more people knew or understood about being a Latina pursuing a career in Law?
I went to school with a lot of other brilliant and hard-working Latinas. I think the most frequent frustration I kept hearing was their family members not understanding how much support they needed from them in order to be successful in law school. I think there was also the expectation of having children and starting a family. Being a woman in the legal field is hard enough as it is and not just because our “biological clock is ticking.” I think that women should be encouraged and praised, and not pressured and limited.
What is one thing you hope will change in this industry in the future?
The legal field is very fast-paced and I think that sometimes it is easy to forget about self-care. I was told during my first year of law school that lawyers have high, if not the highest, rates of depression and substance abuse. People go to lawyers to help them solve problems but who do lawyers go to with their problems? I think it would be nice to have more locally-organized support groups for attorneys.
What and/who inspires you?
My mother, Zarahi, is definitely my biggest source of inspiration. I also feel inspired by all the women in the world who fight for change and progress. I could make a long list with the names of these women, but I would have to say that Sonia Sotomayor has really inspired me.
What’s next for Fatima Arteaga-Fareed?
I have a lot of goals in mind but the first one is to pass the bar exam and become a licensed attorney. I also really want to buy my first home, travel, and get hopefully get published!
Thank you Fatima Fareed for sharing your story with us!
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