Welcome back to another #FebruaryFeature! I hope each one has encouraged, inspired, and motivated you. We are now at the halfway point and if you haven’t read a feature, go back and do so. These incredible women have left a lot of nuggets for each of you. So read the intro here, then go read about Neena, Roberta, and Z’a! Now I want to introduce you to another amazing woman, Gidget Benitez who is the founder and creator of AfroLAWtina.
Who is Gidget?
Gidget Benitez is the 2018 – 2019 PepsiCo Foundation Law Graduate Fellow for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI). In this role, Gidget has worked as a Law Clerk to the Honorable Hiram E. Puig-Lugo at the Superior Court for the District of Columbia and is currently a Law Fellow in the United States Senate.
In law school, Gidget was Editor-in-Chief of the American University Intellectual Property Brief and a Student Attorney in the American University Washington College of Law Civil Advocacy Clinic, where she worked on wage theft, U-visa, and T-visa matters. During her summers, she was a Judicial Intern for the Honorable Jimmie V. Reyna at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Honorable Ivan D. Davis at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Gidget has served in various leadership roles within the Hispanic Bar Association of DC. She has been Co-Chair of the Student Affairs Committee and a member of the Legislation and Policy Committee. In 2018, she was Chair of the Diversity Report Committee and helped to author the HBA-DC’s inaugural Diversity Report.
Gidget graduated from the University of Central Florida with a B.S. in Psychology and Certificates in Criminal Profiling and Behavioral Forensics. She earned her Juris Doctor with a focus in intellectual property law from American University Washington College of Law.
Why did you choose law school?
I chose law school because I wanted to advance my career and end the cycle of poverty for my family. I also wanted to make a tangible difference in the world. I knew that the practice of law was the best decision for me.
Entering law school, did you see yourself on the traditional legal career path? Why or why not?
At the time I entered law school, I was a first-generation college graduate; I wasn’t even sure I would survive my first year, much less graduate and be on anything but a traditional legal career path. I knew that I was extremely interested in technology and had heard about “intellectual property law.” I knew that “people go to law school to become lawyers and work at law firms.” That was all that I knew. It wasn’t until the second year that I realized there were so many other options I could pursue, and it wasn’t until I graduated that I realized a law degree put the world in my palm.
Why did you choose to become an entrepreneur while still deciding to be an attorney?
To be completely honest, it wasn’t my intention to create a business. I just admitted to myself that I had a skill that was very valuable: I can find resources and information very easily. The skill has sharpened even more over the years. In law school, no one holds your hand; you rarely ever get told where to find key information if you do not open your mouth and ask questions. Even then, you must learn to be thoughtful with your questions, to look for things yourself FIRST, and present solutions rather than problems. It also helps that I am a very curious person by nature.
Every time I found out about a key piece of information pertaining to law school or life in general, I would share it with my close friends. The response was always the same, from all of us: why didn’t anyone tell me that? I decided to start helping to solve that problem. I created AfroLAWtina so that Black and Brown girls interested in law school and legal careers could have access to the information that I wish I’d had when I first started. Now, its grown to an amazing platform and group of followers and I’m extremely thankful that the information and resources are getting out there. I just want to help people; that passion for helping drives my actions with AfroLAWtina and in my legal career.
What is the purpose of your business?
I created AfroLAWtina so that Black and Brown girls interested in law school and legal careers could have access to the information that I wish I’d had when I first started. Now, its grown to an amazing platform and group of followers and I’m extremely thankful that the information and resources are getting out there. I just want to help people; that passion for helping drives my actions with AfroLAWtina and in my legal career.
Did law school teach you how to be an entrepreneur?
Yes and no. There was no class in law school that sat me down and made me think about creating a social media platform to reach a specific consumer base; that was borne out of sheer frustration at titans in the legal field who continuously say that they “care about diversity” and are “trying to find qualified candidates,” yet just 5% of attorneys in the United States are Hispanic. On the other hand, going through the experience of law school and life as a woman of color and learning how to navigate multiple spaces taught me what I needed to know so that I could share it with others.
What skills have you learned as a law student or attorney that have translated to how you operate as an entrepreneur?
I learned how to cultivate and nurture relationships. Something that no one tells you as pre-law or first-year law student (particularly if you are
What are some of your professional goals?
I’m in the process of figuring things out right now. I want to gain some more law and public policy experience, maybe complete a full clerkship (work for a judge) and then to a law firm or open my own practice. I think I’d like to run for local office one day. In the far future, I’d like to have my own company or non-profit organization.
If you could go back in your law school career, what would you change or keep the same? Why?
There are some things I would change. I wouldn’t have told myself “no” when I was applying; there were some schools that I didn’t apply to because I thought I might not be “good enough” and didn’t know how to communicate my skills & worth. At the same time, I really enjoyed my law school experience and the friends that I made.
Any tips for law students or attorneys who want to be an entrepreneur?
You know what they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I would say that if there is a problem you are experiencing in your life, chances are that someone else is also having the same problem. It doesn’t hurt to sit down and think about whether you could offer a solution of some kind and what it would look like. Maybe it’s an invention or a social media platform; maybe it’s a physical or online business. Do your research and due diligence. Explore your creativity and find all the free resources you can (you can find almost anything with Google).
I hope I gave you another opportunity to learn and be inspired. With that said, Gidget is hosting a policy briefing on the subject of gerrymandering and its effects on the African American and Hispanic community on April 2, 2019. It is taking place on Capitol Hill in the Rayburn building. So if you are in the area and can go she will be posting information soon. In the meantime check out @CHCIdc on Instagram for full announcements. Also, follow Gidget @Afro_LAWtina on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. And go back and listen to some of the past Podcast, you can find a list of episodes here.