A call to service led Rebeca López to law school. Now, 10 years after she graduated, her alma mater has honored her for that service to the community.
Marquette University Law School has announced its awards for 2022, and López has been named the recipient of the Howard B Eisenberg Service Award.
“I’m very grateful and very humbled by it,” López said in an interview Monday. She said she doesn’t know who nominated her for the honor.
The award is named for the former Dean of the Law School, who died unexpectedly in 2002.
“He really focused his entire career on giving back to the community and in being an important part of the community in which you work and live,” López said.
López said her family, too, were dedicated to serving the community.
“I grew up in a family that gave back. I remember volunteering as soon as I could walk,” she said. “That was just what my parents did, and that’s what we did as a family. And that is something that I continued to do throughout my career, both before and after law school.”
After graduating from Marquette University in 2004, López worked for six years in the office of US Senator Russ Feingold doing Latino outreach and constituent services, especially for immigrants.
“I did immigration work and I had been working with families and helping them navigate their legal challenges and oftentimes they would need a lawyer,” she said. “So I knew the law, I could help them cut through the red tape, but there were certain things that only a lawyer could do for them. And it was really something that I wanted to be able to help them through their entire process. And that was the thing that was preventing me from representing them the whole way along their journey.”
She got to work with immigtation attorneys all over the state, and grew to respect them and their work.
“I really got to partner with them and help them cut through red tape and I thought, ‘Wow, they really help people. They’re there to help people in their times of need.’ And that was just so compelling to me. And so I sort of pulled myself together and barked back into school,” she said.
Now an attorney at Godfrey & Khan in Milwaukee, she still spends a lot of time giving back. She’s president of Centro Legal, a nonprofit organization on the south side of Milwaukee that provides free or low cost legal services in the areas of family law and criminal law for misdemeanor defense and guardian ad litem representation to anyone in the greater Milwaukee area. She’s vice president of the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers’ Association and serves on the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast Governance Committee. She also continues to do pro bono work and helps mentor and guide prospective law students.
“What really matters is what you do afterwards,” she often tells those students. “Are you helping to build community for others and helping to keep the door open? It’s a wonderful opportunity to do all of those things.”
López will be honored at a reception on April 21. Other honorees include Almuna of the Year Christine Wilde Woleske, Lifetime Achievement Awardee Michael J. Gonring, and Charles W. Mentkowski Sports Law Alumna of the Year Andy J. Shiffman.