First-generation college student Laura Flores grew up in a working-class, immigrant household in Tampa, Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of South Florida, she decided to go to law school not only to support her family but also to uplift and serve her community and other marginalized communities through legal advocacy.
Flores was drawn to the UCI School of Law for its support of and opportunities for students wishing to go into public interest law. This academic year, she was awarded a prestigious and highly competitive Skadden Fellowship for public service work. Flores won the fellowship for her proposed project with Justice Action Center in Los Angeles that will combine litigation and other advocacy strategies to challenge the federal agency practice of sharing and using unaccompanied immigrant children’s mental health and trauma-related information in ways that exacerbate their trauma and undermine their ability to secure immigration relief.
“I’m very excited and honored to receive a Skadden Fellowship,” Flores says. “At UCI Law, I have been able to pursue my passion for serving immigrant communities through my clinical and pro bono experiences, and I’m grateful that I’ll have the opportunity to continue this work after law school.”
What is your favorite memory at UCI?
Being able to build friendships and community with other students, especially through groups like the Latinx Law Student Association and First Generation Professionals. Law school can be overwhelming and isolating, so having friendships and your own community is so important.
What are your plans after graduation?
I’ll be working at a nonprofit called Justice Action Center in Los Angeles.
“Laura Flores represents the best of UCI. She’s brilliant and insightful, of course, but she’s also kind and generous. Laura has moved through law school with a laserlike focus on developing the skills to be an immigrant rights lawyer. We should all be grateful that she has decided to devote her considerable talents to this endeavor. I’m especially grateful to have played even a small part in helping to launch what will undoubtedly be a long and successful career.”
– Stephen Lee, professor of law
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself continuing to serve immigrant communities, and I hope to be working alongside these communities to effectuate meaningful change within these spaces on the many intersectional issues that impact immigrants and immigrants of color.
Who was your biggest influence at UCI?
Besides my peers, the faculty at UCI Law have been a huge influence on me, personally and professionally. Whether I was working with them in clinics or taking their class, their warmth and mentorship have guided me to think about and develop my own professional identity as an advocate.
What do you know now that you wish you had known before coming to UCI?
I wish I had known that I was more than capable of succeeding and that I belonged here. During my first year, I struggled with my grades and just generally with keeping up, and I questioned whether I had what it takes to make it through. Eventually, I shifted my mindset and decided to put my energy into creating a space where I could grow. I pursued a lot of clinical work and pro bono work and surrounded myself with like-minded peers and mentors. In the end, doing this allowed me to thrive as a student, advocate and person. So what I would want other people to know before coming to law school is that they are good enough. Spend more time finding what works for you (and what doesn’t), create your own path to reaching your goals, and focus on all the unique things that only you can bring to the table.