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AL DÍA's 2020 Top Lawyers Forum will take place virtually on Oct. 22 at 5:30. Graphic: AL DÍA News.
AL DÍA's 2020 Top Lawyers Forum will take place virtually on Oct. 22 at 5:30. Graphic: AL DÍA News.

AL DÍA’s 2020 Top Lawyers to honor five champions guiding the future of Latinos in law

The forum will also honor Judge Nelson Diaz for his career in the field, and feature a chat with honored guest, Hon. L. Felipe Restrepo.

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Just one month after AL DÍA is set to virtually host its 2020 Hispanic Heritage Awards, it is hosting another virtual event to honor some of the Philadelphia region’s top Latinx champions of justice.

For the past two years, AL DÍA’s Top Lawyers Forum has recognized these individuals not only for their exceptional work in law, but also as leaders to inspire the next generation of Latinx lawyers.

The 2020 AL DÍA Top Lawyers Forum will be virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is poised to pack the same excitement and inspiration for all who tune in.

This year, Pennsylvania’s first-ever Latino judge, the Honorable Nelson Diaz, will be the recognized recipient of the Gus Garcia Lifetime Achievement Award for his career in law that spans more than 40 years.

In that time, beyond making history as the trailblazing Latino law figure in Pennsylvania on the Court of Common Pleas, Diaz was also General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under President Bill Clinton, Philadelphia City Solicitor under Mayor John Street and ran for Mayor of the city in 2015.

In the private sector, Diaz has been a board member of both Exelon and PECO and was a partner at Blank Rome before joining the Clinton Administration. He is currently Of Counsel at Dilworth Paxson.

Through both his time in the public and private sectors, Diaz has been a constant advocate for both the younger generations of Latinx and Black lawyers and Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican community.

This year’s virtual forum will also feature a chat with Judge L. Felipe Restrepo as its honored guest.

Restrepo, originally from Colombia, is a Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He was first nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 2013 before rising to his spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2016.

His latter appointment in 2016 received bipartisan support from both Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey.

In 2018, Restrepo was also recognized as a public service archetype during AL DÍA’s 2018 Hispanic Heritage Awards.  

Beyond Díaz and Restrepo, the forum will recognize five champions of justice from a small firm, a mid-large firm, a nonprofit firm, and who work as in-house counsel and in government in the Philadelphia region.

This years champions are the following:

Sharon Lopez: Small Firm

Born in Mexico City to a Mexican father and Pennsylvania Dutch mother, Lopez’s journey to being a civil rights and employment attorney at Triquetra Law has been filled with instances of struggle and perseverance. 

She started her career with a number of community organizations in Lancaster, PA before going to Widener and getting her law degree. 

After graduating, Lopez worked at MidPenn Legal Services before spending seven years starting in the late 1990s at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Abuse as its first Pennsylvania Senior Attorney.

In 2017, she became the first Latina to lead the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

Carlos Bollar: Mid-Large Firm

Bollar practices environmental law at Archer Law and is co-chair of the firm’s Environmental Justice Practice Group. 

His career has spanned more than 20 years at Archer, which he joined after serving as law clerk in the office of New Jersey Superior Court Judge William J. Cook. Bollar is a graduate of Rutgers University School of Law.

Outside of the courtroom, Bollar is a past president of the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey and has been recognized with a number of professional accolades including being named “Latino Lawyer of the Year” in 2019 by the Hispanic National Bar Association. 

He also currently serves as the National Finance Director of the Hispanic National Bar Association. 

Renee Garcia: In-House Counsel

Garcia has served as Managing Senior Counsel at PNC Bank since 2013, where she leads a team that handles litigation and escalated customer complaints arising from the bank’s consumer products, as well as directly managing litigation related to PNC’s wealth management services. Garcia also works closely with business and compliance partners to advise on all aspects of the bank's fair lending program, including product review, monitoring, and examination and compliance matters involving fair lending issues.

She also currently serves as the Chair of the PNC Legal Pro Bono Committee, which engages PNC’s in-house counsel in pro bono opportunities in the Bank’s primary markets.  Garcia herself has provided pro bono legal services through the SeniorLAW Center, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, Support Center for Child Advocates, and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, amongst others.

Garcia is also a Director on the Boards of Community Legal Services/Philadelphia Legal Assistance, the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania, and arts non-profit Intercultural Journeys.

Before PNC, she was an associate at Hogan Lovells US, where she managed a team of 15 attorneys. 

Garcia is a graduate of both Barnard College, where she got her undergraduate degree in psychology and European studies, and Harvard Law School, where she played an active role in the Harvard Immigration Project. While in law school, she also contributed to the Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review and Environmental Law Review, and was part of the Women’s Law Association.

Anita Santos-Singh: Nonprofit Firm

Santos-Singh is the Executive Director of Philadelphia Legal Assistance, the sister organization to Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.

The organization, which was founded in 1996, provides free civil legal services to low-income individuals and families in Philadelphia. It helps with legal services in family law, foreclosure, public benefits, and for migrant farmworkers.

Before joining the organization, Santos-Singh was a staff attorney at Community Legal Services.

She is a native of South Texas, but has been in Philadelphia for more than 25 years and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986 with a degree in International Relations. Santos-Singh attended the University of Michigan for law school, graduating in 1989.

Throughout her career, she has been recognized with many awards, including the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania’s “La Justicia” Award and the “Orgullo” Award from the Latino Law Students Association at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2015, she was also awarded the Andrew Hamilton Award by the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Jacqueline Romero: Government

Romero is an Assistant U.S. Attorney that focuses on affirmative and defensive civil litigation and criminal prosecution. 

As a prosecutor, she handles firearms, drug, fraud, environmental, civil rights and tax matters. In the defense, she works cases on tort, employment, civil rights, and administrative matters. 

In her position, Romero is also the Civil Rights Coordinator for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and is assigned to the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Strike Force.

She is born and raised in New Jersey and is a graduate of both The College of New Jersey and Rutgers University School of Law.

 AL DÍA’s 2020 Top Lawyers Forum will take place virtually on Oct 22 at 5:30 p.m.

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