Inspired by her own experiences, Patricia sets out to create a more inclusive legal world.
Friday, October 13, 2023

During Hispanic Heritage Month, a compelling narrative has unfolded at Iowa Law where passionate individuals with multicultural backgrounds intertwine their legal aspirations and desire to create change within the legal community.  

Patricia Linninger, a second-year law student and president of the Hispanic and Latinx Law Students Association (HLLSA), has nearly four years of experience in immigration law, primary working with asylum seekers, cancelation of removal, and work employment authorization. This summer she had an externship with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as a Resettlement Intern. 

Patricia graciously shared more about what it means to be a Hispanic lawyer and her hopes for the future.  

Tell us about your journey to Iowa Law? 

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts but moved to the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, IL as a small child. I remember I had some difficulty my first few years in school, I did not speak English and I did not understand American cultural references.

My upbringing was very sheltered, in the sense that my parents forged their own little country within the four corners of my home. Over time, I came to find my own place as someone with a unique background living within a diverse midwestern town. Eventually, I went to a small liberal arts college in upstate New York are focused my studies on Philosophy and Painting.  

What does your Hispanic/Latino heritage mean to you? 

Being Hispanic is an integral facet of myself and something that makes me the person I am.  

How has your background shaped or inspired your career aspirations? 

My multicultural background has afforded me the ability to better connect with others. I saw how my parents were able to start a family despite the fact they were from two very different cultures. As I grew up, I did not see my unique background as a barrier but as a tool to get to know and have empathy for others.

When I worked with asylum seekers, I discovered that my background helped facilitate trust and communication. I enjoyed getting to know clients while I was helping with their immigration matters. I liked it so much so that I decided to go to law school and become an attorney. 

What are you most proud of when you think about your heritage? 

When I look at the Hispanic/Latino culture, I am most proud of our diversity. 

Recent numbers show us, Latinas only make up 2% of female attorneys in the US. What does your role as a future lawyer mean to you? 

In a democratic society, the framework around our laws and governance should reflect the will of the people. If certain groups are largely underrepresented, we run into the possibility that our legal system only serves some portion of the population and not all.  

I hope my role as a future lawyer can help bridge the gap, no matter how small or large my future career may be. 

What advice would you give to an aspiring Latina lawyer?  

My advice is to be your biggest advocate and cheerleader. You do belong in the legal profession, you are smart, you are capable, and you can do it. There are going to be moments when you may doubt yourself, and that is normal. There may be times where you will be disappointed or feel less than others. However, do not think for a second that you are not worthy of an excellent legal career in whatever pathway you choose.