Magdalena Oropeza ’18
With JD from Columbia, Magdalena Oropeza ’18 Launches Mergers & Acquisitions Career

Degree: BA in Latin American & Latinx Studies (LLS) and Criminology
Hometown: Queens, New York
Programs: Rising Scholars of Justice (RSJ), Honors Program, CUNY Service Corps, Vera Fellows, SASP, ¡Adelante!
Mentors: Dr. Jodie Roure, José Luis Morín, Dr. Daniel Auld
Corporate, M&A & Securities Associate, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP
Career aspiration: Law Firm Partner

What was life like growing up?
Both of my parents immigrated from Mexico when they were very young. I grew up in a small one-bedroom apartment in Queens. There was always family around—aunts, uncles, and cousins—but never enough space. Recently, I moved to a penthouse apartment in the Bronx with loads of space. After settling in, my mom and I had a moment where we recognized how far I’d come from that one-bedroom apartment.

Why did you want to be a lawyer?
My parents visited a lot of attorneys regarding their immigration issues. I was seven years old and had to be their interpreter because most of the attorneys didn’t speak Spanish. I remember thinking that lawyers were people who were supposed to solve problems but what I witnessed always felt like a door closing. As a kid watching my parents’ disappointment, I thought that if I learned all the laws, I could figure out a way to help them.

How did your mentors help shape your college experience?
I had three guiding stars throughout my John Jay career—Dr. Jodie Roure, Professor José Luis Morín, and Dr. Daniel Auld. To this day, we still meet for lunch or dinner and I text them for advice. My very first class at John Jay was with Dr. Roure and she was the first Latina professor I ever encountered. After that class, I knew that I was at the right college because she had so much energy and enthusiasm. Professor Morín’s classes were very writing intensive. Looking back on my papers from my first year, I can see how much he helped improve my writing skills—which was essential for law school. Dr. Auld gave me my first campus job and he was the first person who opened my eyes to the possibility of going into corporate law.

What was the law school application process like for you?
I applied to 15 law schools and got into 14 of them. What I think set me apart was my personal journey to get into law school. My mentors urged me to express the kind of change I wanted to make in the legal profession. In my personal statement I shared where I came from and how I was exposed to a challenging legal system through my parents’ experience. Thanks to my LLS courses and RSJ, I also felt confident explaining what it meant to be Latinx in America and show my desire to diversify the bar.

How did you decide on a law school?
After I applied to Columbia, there was a law school fair at John Jay. Dr. Roure came up behind me and said, “You have to talk to the Columbia admissions officer.” I went to the Columbia table and Dr. Roure introduced me to the admissions officer. Then we had a casual, 15-minute conversation. The following January, when other students were setting up their law school interviews, I got an email with the subject line: Admissions Decision. I opened it and learned that I had been accepted with a substantial scholarship—covering 55 percent of the tuition. When I went to an open house for accepted students, the admissions officer told me that she was so impressed with our initial chat that I didn’t need a formal interview. After I decided to go to Columbia, Dr. Roure had a heart-to-heart conversation with me. She said, “You might be the only Latina in the room when you walk into class, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that you belong in that room and you worked hard to get there. Just keep going.” I never forgot that conversation.

What was it like entering the legal profession?
I graduated from law school and passed the bar in 2021. Then I worked at The Door Legal Services Center as a Norton Rose Fulbright Law Fellow. That involved a lot of immigration, family law, and legal representation work. Once the fellowship was over, I came back to Norton Rose Fulbright and joined their Corporate Mergers, Acquisitions and Securities Practice Group. It’s a new field for me, but I’m still using the skills that I learned at John Jay. It’s really fascinating work that speaks to my love of learning, passion for writing, and background in the law.