Editors’ Note: As part of our ongoing Diversity and Inclusion Spotlight series, Regina Ochoa, a 1L at UC Berkeley School of Law, and Mia Akers, a 2L at UC Berkeley School of Law, interviewed San Francisco partner Alfredo Silva. In the excerpt below, Fredo, who is a member of our Corporate Group and serves on our Pro Bono Committee, discusses why he chose MoFo and the impact that pro bono work has had on his career.
Mia: What initially brought you to MoFo? How do you think growing up at MoFo and staying at one firm has shaped your career and practice?
Fredo: I came to MoFo for a totally different reason than a majority of people. At the time, I wanted to work in Asia, specifically in China, and MoFo had the most and largest Asia-based offices of any law firm I was looking at. The firm is also based in California, which is where I wanted to start out initially anyway. MoFo was hands down the best option.
The real question is: Why did I stay?
Obviously I’m not in China doing deals. Even though my ultimate career goals changed, I stayed because I really enjoyed the people, especially the partners and clients I’ve worked with.
Regina: Did you find it harder or easier to develop business as a person of color and an LGBT attorney?
Fredo: That is a great question. I’m going to preface my answer by confirming I actually am a person of color. The people not in the room may not be able to see, I am the palest person in this room. I’m half Latino and half Eastern European. I mention this because people don’t often perceive me as a person of color, and so, it’s never seriously been a challenge for me.
On the other hand, I very intentionally decided to move to San Francisco because I wanted to be able to develop business, and in some places, my being gay would have been problematic. Here, I don’t think being gay has been an obstacle at all, and in some ways, I’ve actually tried to leverage that.
For example, there is an LGBT entrepreneur’s organization called “Start Out,” and I am a start-up lawyer. A lot of what I do is financings and incorporations of emerging companies and start-ups, and I’ve also worked with them as their pro bono counsel. I’ve also done a few talks and lectures that have led to business relationships, some of which have come to fruition.
Mia: Do you think your identity is viewed as an asset and/or have you faced any obstacles because of your identity at MoFo? What do you think about MoFo’s initiatives around diversity?
Fredo: Our firm believes in diversity and inclusion and our clients care about it. In the Corporate Group, we deal with a lot of start-ups, entrepreneurs, and Bay Area companies. They are all diverse workplaces and like the people they work with to be diverse. It is really important for our clients and for us as a firm.
It’s also great to see the different programs we are constantly trying out and bringing in to enhance not just diversity but inclusion.
Mia: Let’s talk about work-life balance. What are your passions outside of work and how do you make time for them?
Fredo: I like skiing. I like to travel and visit my family and friends. I like enjoying the city. San Francisco is a great place to be. Every day can be a different experience and the city has so much to offer.
I think everybody has a different definition of family and what it means to have a balance between work and your personal life. My husband and I are a family. How do I, because it’s a different kind of family in context, find that balance?
I don’t have children, so my work-life balance is not focused on getting home early. I don’t mind staying at the office until 8 or 9 o’clock to get work done in order to be free for the weekends.
I had to figure out what I wanted out of work-life balance, and how would I make that work. It was really about picking a practice and partners who have the same outlook on life. I had to find the partners and clients I meshed with.
One of my favorite clients to work with is a big fan of skiing and going sailing in the Caribbean. He likes hearing about my skiing vacations. When I leave for vacation, we find someone to provide back-up support, but I’ll take a call if it’s an important meeting.
Everybody has different goals, but you will figure it out.
Mia: What type of pro bono work have you done at MoFo? What has participating in pro bono meant to you?
Fredo: Doing pro bono is something I always wanted to do to make a difference in people’s lives. I wanted to be a positive force for change and social justice.
On the other hand, I love being a corporate lawyer. Doing pro bono enables me to love being a corporate lawyer while doing all of that as well. It is a perfect blend.
A great example is The Bay Lights, which is the art installation on the Bay Bridge that anybody in San Francisco can see. It was produced by a nonprofit organization called Illuminate. We were able to help them get their 501(c)(3)status. We helped draft their contracts with engineering firms that helped them put the lights on the bridge. We also helped them with their permitting. It was a lot of work.
The Bay Lights project meant a lot to me. Find pro bono that works for you. It is encouraged here at MoFo.