Candelario Saldana, a high achieving student at the University of Miami School of Law, is active in the National LGBT Bar Association and his school’s LGBTQ+ student organization, OUTLaw. However, for Candelario, a career in law was never a guarantee. After graduating with a B.A. in Political Science and a B.A. in Gender Studies from the University of Utah, Candelario was devastated to realize that he had to put his dreams of law school on hold – his undocumented status prevented him from applying for federal or student loans. Even after securing legal status, he was unsure if he could continue his education. “When I turned 18, my mother did not allow me to register with the selective service out of fear that our information would be given to immigration authorities,” he says. As a result, law schools were barred from offering him federal financial aid. After six long years of uncertainty, Candelario was finally able to attend the University of Miami School of Law, and he is scheduled to graduate this spring.
While the road to law school has been challenging, Candelario’s experience as a student has been full of opportunities to learn, network and develop a better idea of his professional goals. According to Candelario, the LGBT Bar’s Lavender Law® Conference & Career Fair has been crucial in helping him achieve this success.
“During my first year in law school one of the first things that I heard from LGBTQ+ identified 2L and 3Ls was about Lavender Law® and how amazing it was to see so many queer identified lawyers,” he recalls. After listening to the success stories of his peers, he decided to apply for OUTLaw’s Lavender Law® sponsorship and attend the conference in 2017.
“Upon arrival, I felt a bit overwhelmed because of the amount of people in the room,” he says. However, after talking to a few attorneys and connecting with his fellow students, Candelario realized the incredible opportunities that the conference had to offer. “The networking opportunities are countless, but it is also a great place to learn about the different legal areas that affect LGBTQ+ individuals,” he says. “I also think that the career fair is a great place to at least learn about the firms that are committed to inclusion and diversity.”
Lavender Law® also helped Candelario secure a position at a large law firm. At his first Lavender Law® Conference, Candelario connected with a partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP. He attended the firm’s reception and interviewed at Cadwalader’s table. A few weeks later, he was called into their office for an interview.
“I was extremely nervous,” he says. While he was excited about the opportunity, he was still unsure of how he would fit into the culture of a big firm. “I didn’t know if I would be able to completely be myself.” However, when he arrived for the interview not only was one of the associates also an out gay man of color, but another lawyer Candelario had met at Lavender Law® greeted him. “The interview experience reassured me that I could work at a firm like Cadwalader,” says Candelario.
Candelario accepted a position with Cadwalader as a Summer Associate, and upon completion of the summer program was offered a position with the firm upon graduation. Next year, he will be joining Cadwalader’s Charlotte office as a full-time associate in the Capital Markets Group.
Candelario is confident that his new career will help him be an example to others who may be afraid that their identity will hold them back from a fulfilling career. “As a gay Latino, I want to give back to my community and be a role model for many other youths who doubt themselves because of their identity,” he says. “I want them to know that you can put your dreams on pause, but never give up, and never stop reaching for the stars.”