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THE 23rd ANNUAL HOT 25
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Mayte Santacruz

By Susan BelknappPublished: November 01, 2012

President-Elect, Orange County Hispanic Bar Association
Associate Latham & Watkins, 
Costa Mesa
Hot factor: Her commitment to others has garnered her major recognition in her field


Though only 30, Mayte Santacruz has had her share of accolades this year; in October, she was honored by the California State Bar with the 2012 President’s Pro Bono Services Award; in June, she was named Attorney of the Year by the Public Law Center, Orange County’s pro bono law firm; and in April, she received the Spirit of Volunteerism Award by OneOC and the Orange County Register.

Santacruz, an associate at Latham & Watkins LLP in Costa Mesa, shares her diverse legal talents by being a business litigator by day and a compassionate crusader during her off hours. Since graduating law school in 2008, she has provided more than 1,000 hours of pro bono services for the Public Law Center and Human Options, handling cases such as immigrant victims of domestic violence, rape and aggravated assault.

“In 2011 alone, Santacruz dedicated 350 hours to this work, assisting 18 individuals with their VAWA and U Visa petitions,” says an announcement by the California State Bar. “Because of these efforts, her clients can obtain the opportunity to lawfully work, obtain a Social Security number and driver’s license, and otherwise live freely in our society.”

This work is important to Santacruz, a native of Santa Ana who graduated from Santa Ana College and UCI, and later received her law degree from UC Berkeley. Amazingly, because of Santacruz’s tenacity and organization, she completed her undergrad degree and law school completely debt free – an impressive achievement.

“I was called the ‘Scholarship Queen,’ because I applied to so many scholarships and received a lot of them.”

Santacruz is a strong believer of giving back to the community and helping Hispanic students achieve their academic goals. Last year, she created the Mayte Santacruz Pre-Law Scholarship Fund, which awards scholarships to Hispanic high school seniors and/or college students from Orange County who are interested in a career in law. Santacruz also works with the Hispanic Bar Association of Orange County.

“One of my undergrad advisors urged me to get involved early in my career with the Hispanic Bar Association. He said, ‘If you want to be a lawyer, you need to be around lawyers.’ And I got involved.”

Santacruz is now the incoming president of the OCHBA. During her tenure, she hopes to continue increasing the amount of the organization’s scholarships.

“The HBA scholarship program has been very successful, as many of the recipients, including myself, have returned to Orange County and are active members of the HBA,” she says. “We hope to continue developing the next generation of HBA leaders and Latino lawyers in Orange County.”




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