Photos courtesy of The Hudson Valley Hispanic Bar Association
Organization president Alejandra Gil is carving out a much-needed space for the Hudson Valley Hispanic Bar Association.
Alejandra Gil has been president of the Hudson Valley Hispanic Bar Association (HVHBA) since July of 2022. A medical malpractice defense attorney by day, Gil is guiding the 120-member-and-growing bar association’s reach. We spoke with her about her role and her goals for the HVHBA’s future.
What does being at the helm of the HVHBA mean to you?
I wasn’t involved with many bar associations before I became involved with this one. It was a natural fit for me when I heard that they were putting it together. I was born in New York but moved to Puerto Rico when I was 5 years old. I moved back to New York to go to college and have been here since. Growing up in Puerto Rico, you really don’t think about the fact that you’re Puerto Rican, right? Everybody is. But once you come stateside, it’s a different ballgame. The higher I get up in my profession, the more I realize that we need to do better with our representation at the higher levels of law firms in corporate jobs. Our organi-zation has attorneys from all types of background: government attorneys, solo practitioners, attorneys working in law firms, judges. It’s been great seeing a unity among the group.
“I feel it’s an advantage for me to be a Puerto Rican woman and say that I’m a partner in this law firm.”
–Alejandra Gil, President, HVHBA
What made you want to practice law?
I knew I wanted to be an attorney around high school. A little cliché, but growing up, my parents would say, “Do you have to argue with us about everything? You’d better become an attorney and make some money off of it.” I did my undergrad in political science and sociology. From there, I took two years to be a paralegal because I was pretty sure I wanted to go to law school, but I thought it was a good time to get some experience and just make sure that was what I wanted to do. I got a job as a trial preparation assistant, which is the official term for a paralegal at the New York County DA’s office. I did that for two years, then I went to law school up in Albany. My first job out of law school was at the proxies’ office. I was there for six and a half years. I then moved to a small firm in Fishkill, doing medical malpractice defense. From there, I went to my current firm, where I’ve been for eight years. I’m losing track of time. It’s been a while!
How does it feel representing people trying to get into law who may feel they don’t belong in this line of work?
I think the tide is shifting. Whenever I go to court, there’s a lot of women. You see younger women, but the higher up you get — with respect to partners who are actually trying cases — it kind of shifts back to men. In our firm, we have a pretty even women-to-men partner ratio. Our firm is great about that. A lot of our institutional clients, a lot of the hospitals, recognize that juries need to see representation in the attorneys who are trying cases. So, a lot of our hospitals are making a concerted effort to say, “We need more women; we need more women of color” leading these cases. Honestly, at this point, I feel it’s an advantage for me to be a Puerto Rican woman and say that I’m a partner in this law firm. I’ve been doing this for a while, and hopefully I can try more cases and be at the head of the table.
Has there been any moment in your tenure as president that’s really made an impact on you?
My phone call with Justice Hector LaSalle was a big deal. He’s a presiding justice over the biggest court system in our state. To have him personally reach out to me as the president of our bar association, to thank me and to thank the bar association for our support, that really meant a lot. It was especially funny because I don’t do a lot of appellate work, but I happen to argue and appeal in the second department, which is the court he presides over. So he wasn’t on the panel that day, but that was his courtroom. Then, a couple of days later, being on the phone with him was surreal. That never would have happened if I wasn’t in this position. To see the process he went through, fighting through the confirmation hearing [after his nomination by the governor to be New York State’s top judge], I was so impressed by his eloquence and his knowledge. I’m happy to have the opportunity to support him in any way we can and to have him personally show his appreciation was really something.