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Patricia Garcia Rodriguez, human rights attorney

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Patricia Garcia Rodriguez, a human rights lawyer.   I enjoyed learning about her interesting work.

Could you please provide a brief summary of your professional background?

My name is Patricia Garcia Rodriguez and I am an international lawyer, specialized and expert on Business and Human Rights. I am originally from Spain, but I came to New York in 2012 to get my Masters degree in International Legal Studies at New York University School of Law.

I initially began my career as a legal associate in one of the Spanish leading law firms (http://www.cuatrecasas.com). I worked there for four years before coming to NYC, doing mainly corporate law and international project finance. While I appreciated the learning opportunity that the firm offered, I also realized that the traditional corporate path was not for me.  I have always envisioned myself as being part of a bigger entity, where I could utilize my legal knowledge to originate positive social impacts. This is precisely why I enrolled at NYU: to learn more about international law, human rights, transitional justice, human rights for women, international criminal law, and the interplay of corporations and states in the international arena.

As of September 2013, I have been working as a consultant for United Nations Development Programme on business and human rights issues. My most recent role at UNDP focused on business and human rights and includes juggling various responsibilities ranging from: analyzing legal and regulatory frameworks, compiling analytical briefings, facilitating various discussions across multiple stakeholders and drafting legal opinions and reports. I have carried out research and stakeholder mapping. I have gained a full understanding of the social, economic, political and cultural dynamics of the development agenda. I have contextualized the information gathered and I learned how to apply it to the agency’s operations. Most importantly, I have learned that to efficiently address development issues and manage risks and impacts it should be lead trough the collaboration with communities, government and civil society.

I am now excited to be part of a new project on Business and Human Right at UN Global Compact which is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.

While in law school, did you know that you wanted to work in the field of international human rights law?

Looking back I guess I knew. I was always interested in International Law and Criminal Law.  However, I only found the strength of working in the field of international human rights law while doing Corporate Law. Back then I learnt that if you have to work many hours, you better do it at something you are really passionate about.  I think you know what you like. You just need to listen yourself and believe in yourself, even if everybody else think is a more difficult, risky or less rewarding path than others.

Is there a particular case or client that you have encountered throughout your career that stands out in your mind?

 Angelica Valencia case. I volunteer for an US-based NGO, “ A Better Balance”. They do an amazing job helping to prevent discrimination of pregnant women in the workplace. It was a really rewarding experience not only for the positive outcome (she got her job back) but also because it made me feel we were really improving someone´s life. You really get to see results working that closely with victims.

Could you please tell the readers what your current job entails?

I am a human rights defender, I advocate. I tried to find useful ways to engage with Governments. Pretty much is about lobbying and advocating. I researched on industries and practices in order to modify National Laws and regulatory obligations. I investigated and reported bad practices in order to bring public attention. For example: The Extractive Industry is a very sensitive sector because of the impact of their operations in developing countries and the amount of human rights violations committed in the past and nowadays. Issues like Revenue Transparency, corruption are the bread and butter of my work in that sector. Local Governments are widely associated with environmental and social abuses. Identifying bad practices during my fact-finding researches and writing reports, lessons learned and conclusions is one of the prongs of my work.

Also, with my participation in conferences and colloquiums I helped to increase the consensus, media splash and positive responses. In other words, what I do consists in trying to increase the recognition of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights´ authority by States, advocate for generating consistent and uniform compliance by Companies and keeping discussions of potential international “hard laws” measures with Civil Society.

Have you encountered any hurdles on your career path?

Yes, it was very difficult to get my foot in the door. It is a very competitive field.

Is there anything on your path that you wish you had done differently?

No really. My background as corporate lawyer ended up opening me many doors. Working on business and human rights is the perfect combination of my professional background as corporate lawyer and my huge passion for human rights.

Did you have a mentor at any time during your career?

Unfortunately, I hadn´t any particular mentor but I am happy to say that many people in my path somehow point me out in the right direction. Either by giving me pieces of advice, telling me their experiences or by rejecting me many times while applying for jobs openings. I have crossed path with many great professionals and some of them believed in me.

If a new attorney was searching for a mentor, what advice would you give her for the search?

Try to find professionals who can relate to you. People that once were where you are.

Do you have any advice for the readers in terms of maintaining the mentoring relationship after the initial meeting?

It is always important to follow-up. You never know what can happen in the future. From my experience I recommended you to try not to lose track of the people that once made time for you. Somehow, all is connected.

Do you have any final advice for newly minted female lawyers who aspire to be human rights lawyers?

If you are convinced in your heart that you could make a lasting contribution –try to get your break. Get involved in human rights associations, participate in conferences, work as a volunteer, get informed, reach people in the field, listen their experiences and don´t stop trying.

Patricia is a Human Rights Policy Analyst at United Nations Global Compact in New York City. She specializes in all aspects of International and Human Rights Law.  She has advised Governments and international groups of companies in complying with all aspects of the Business and Human Rights Agenda, including by conducting audits of their activities, providing multijurisdictional advice prior to the implementation of projects, drafting policy recommendations and assisting with all applicable formalities. Patricia also specializes in development issues with a focus in Latin American Countries. Patricia has assisted to international summits and conferences worldwide, being participant at the third Global Sustainability Summit in Madrid and the Colloquium on Policy, Law, Contracts, and Sustainable Investments, Institute for Human Rights and Business in New York.

Patricia earned both her Spanish dual law and Business Administration degree from the European University of Madrid, in 2008 and her LLM in International Legal Studies from New York University, in 2013. Patricia is a member of the Madrid Bar. Patricia recently became a Young Professional Leader with the Young Lawyers Division.

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