Editor's Note: Inspired by the many speakers WLALA has presented over the years, we’ve taken notice that we can all benefit by sharing our experiences, wisdom, ideas and hopes for the future. For the younger generation, it is easy to forget how far we’ve come and the paths those before us have paved. For the older generation, the focus on work-life balance and the drop-out rate among younger attorneys may seem disappointing. In this “Generational Perspectives” series, WLALA will feature articles written by female attorneys of all ages – from those who have been practicing for more than 35 years to those who recently graduated from law school -- to share their thoughts on how far we’ve come and where we are headed.
by Maria Rivas Hamar, Esq. California Family Law Specialist
A lot has happened by the time you are my age. I was born in Cuba and grew up in Miami with very humble, traditional and loving Cuban parents and yes, Miami was little Cuba in many ways. However, I was the first generation growing up in the U.S culture. As a result, I got mixed messages: get a great education which you know no one can take away from you, make sure you can support yourself, and (you’re a woman, so) you must be cared for by your parents until you marry and can’t go away from home to study because terrible things could happen to you. So, I lived at home until I graduated from the University of Miami (FL.) Law School, and then quickly married. I was the first lawyer in my extended family.
My ex-husband and I had a very successful, mostly federal, criminal law practice for many years in Miami and then Los Angeles, traveling all over the country to try complex cases and working in a very male oriented area of the law. It was my experience that women had to work harder to prove themselves in the criminal law field. So, a strong work ethic was essential.
At one point I realized that I didn’t want to travel all over the country while my girls were still little, so I changed gradually to a family law practice. It was not an easy transition, but determination as well as making mistakes and learning from them, allowed me to make that change. I realized that any lawyer could make a change in their area of practice if they are determined to do so.
I became a certified family law specialist and have handled many simple and complex cases involving divorces, prenuptial agreements, post nuptial agreements, domestic violence, child abuse, Hague Convention, International custody cases, and more. I volunteer at the WLALA domestic violence clinic which I love doing, and try to help young lawyers. I am the chairperson of the Family Law Section of WLALA and am so grateful for the support, kindness, friendship, and inspiration that WLALA members have given me.
Speaking of a generational perspective, I have two daughters that brought and continue to bring so much joy to my life. I was determined to let them explore their interests fully and I encouraged them to take risks and believe in themselves. I was very involved in volunteering at their schools and went as far as to learn to play soccer so I could coach one of my daughters. Coaching young girls was an opportunity for me to encourage them to learn confidence in a very physical sport and believe in themselves and enjoy the experience, whether they won a game or not.
So, my daughters did things I never had the opportunity to do: soccer, gymnastics, dance, singing, acting, and more. As a result, they had a lot more confidence than I had at a young age. They showed a great work ethic in school and otherwise.
So, when it came time for my daughters to go to college they went to wonderful colleges on the East Coast. Although I missed them terribly, I was not going to keep them in L.A. if their dreams and opportunities were far away from me. So, now they are young lawyers on the East Coast, but what is most important to me is that they are both wonderful women. Here’s to the new generation of women lawyers.
Maria Rivas Hamar, of Hamar Family Law Corp., is a certified family law specialist who heads the Family Law Section of WLALA .
*If you would like to contribute to this series, please contact the WLALA Communications Officer, Heather Stern at firstname.lastname@example.org.