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CASE STUDY: Maria Fernanda Gandarez, Partner, Pryor Cashman, New York

Why did you want to be a lawyer?

I am an immigrant, so pursuing a career in the law was very important to me. I wanted to help the community I lived in and ensure the legal system reflected and addressed the concerns of the immigrant community.

What was the best piece of advice given to you during your career?

Be true to yourself and follow your heart with integrity and compassion. This is amalgamated advice from several people in my life, and they probably don’t even remember saying it to me!  My mother, Betsy Plevin, a former law partner, and Rick Ford, my legal clinic mentor when I was in law school.

What’s your best piece of advice to other women wanting a legal career?

Trust your instincts, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and support younger professionals, men and women, but be especially vigilant about the young women attorneys around you and ensure you ask questions and take the time to speak to them. Make sure the men around you also feel supported and learn to see you as a mentor and leader.

What has been your career highlight?

Given my background - I was the first in family to go to high school, college and law school - becoming a lawyer was a huge achievement.  Having my mother, who can’t read or write in any language, at my law school graduation, was a real treat!

In my career, coming to Pryor Cashman and growing my practice here has been a real highlight. 

What are your future goals?

To grow the mobility practice I brought over to Pryor Cashman. We’ve already made quite a few strides in this area, so I look forward to continuing this growth.