Jose Garcia-Fuerte

My passions include mentoring future generations of law students with experiences similar to mine and advocating for a more equitable legal field—for both practitioners and nonlawyers.

Jose Garcia-Fuerte JD ?23

Degree and Class Year

JD ’23

Program Type

3 year (day)

Hometown

Denver, Colorado; born in Mexico City, Mexico

Undergraduate/Graduate School(s)

BA, Law, Politics, and Society, Drake University

Areas of legal interest(s)

Environmental Law, Cannabis Law, Civil Litigation

Brief Background

I am K–JD, meaning that I attended law school directly after undergraduate college, but I’ve been fortunate to experience various areas, industries, and practices in that time. From working construction and food service in my home state of Colorado to valeting cars for a hotel and working for a law firm in Iowa while in college to now to doing legal work and writing academic papers as a law student, I have gained a unique perspective on the world. Those experiences have allowed me to take a nuanced approach to my legal education that I have gotten to apply in my classes and legal internships.

Currently, I am a summer associate with the Crag Law Center, a public-interest environmental law firm. I am also finishing up two law review articles about cannabis law. Previously, I was a summer law clerk with Advocates for the West and a judicial extern for the Judge Marco Hernández in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon.

My passions include mentoring future generations of law students with experiences similar to mine and advocating for a more equitable legal field—for both practitioners and nonlawyers.

List up to three activities (school-related or not) that you are involved in. Why are they most important to you?

  1. UndocuLaw Northwest
    This group of noncitizen law students and recent graduates strives to educate and inform the next generation on how to get to law school and succeed in their careers. As a DACAmented student myself, this group encouraged me to be unapologetic about my status in my legal career while continuing to advocate to change systems of bias and oppression against noncitizens in the legal community.
  2. L&C’s Latinx Law Society (LLS)/Oregon Hispanic Bar Association/Hispanic National Bar Association
    These Latine-specific affinity groups have provided me with a community of people that look and talk like me—something so necessary to my personal and cultural connection as a Latino. For example, LLS on campus has brought together our varying Latine cultures as a way to build community with other Latine students. Having this type of a tight-knit community is vital for academic and professional success.
  3. Public interest environmental law
    The public interest environmental law community in Portland has a uniquely close relationship with practitioners and supporters all working to defend our people and natural environment. They are a welcoming bunch who want to see upcoming legal advocates thrive in their careers.

What is your favorite class that you’ve taken at Lewis & Clark? Why?

Complex Litigation with Professor Klonoff because I was able to merge my passion for social justice with my fascination for civil litigation. I was able to understand how aggregate litigation could be used as a legal device to advance equitable causes while learning about current developments in aggregate litigation to better tailor my legal advocacy. I also wrote an in-depth research paper exploring the increasing number of class-action lawsuits in the cannabis field, which is a personal academic interest of mine.

Tell us about a meaningful Lewis & Clark academic experience that happened outside of the classroom.

Through a Cannabis Law and Policy class I took in fall 2021, I had the unique opportunity to research an ongoing, pressing issue facing Oregon legislators regarding cannabis. After talking with the professor about it, he connected me with several legislators who invited me to several committee working groups where I got to observe politics in action. This experience enriched my academic research and allowed me to come up with creative solutions for the issue. Not to mention, several legislators were Lewis & Clark Law School alumni, which served as a reminder that a Lewis & Clark degree can take me anywhere.

What was the hardest thing about adjusting to law school?

Law school is tough—academically, socially, and personally—especially for students who are not part of traditionally dominant identities. While law school environments are becoming better as a result of tireless student advocacy, there are still many ideologies and practices that may make groups of people feel unwelcome or excluded. My advice to overcome this is two-fold: first, find your community and establish a self-care practice that will serve as safe spaces for you; second, when you are comfortable enough, work to intentionally carve out your place of belonging in law school and your specific legal community. You gain a sense of autonomy over your personal and professional life when you do so, which I have come to realize is a priceless thing in such a demanding field.

Do you have any other stories, comments, or experiences you would like to share?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make mistakes. Taking the initiative to ask questions about things like class material or a work project will make your life easier—and may even make your fellow classmates’ or coworkers’ lives easier because I can assure you many of them were wondering the same thing. When it comes to asking professors questions, think of it as getting your money’s worth for the (very high) price you’re paying to attend. You may even develop professional relationships with professors who may serve as references for you early in your career. When it comes to making mistakes, remind yourself that those slip-ups or oversights happen to everyone and that they do not mean the end of your career. Take it as a learning opportunity to demonstrate that you understand what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future. After all, problem solving is among a lawyer’s most valuable skills.

Public Interest Law Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Law