When she’s not protecting New Yorkers from scams, Karla G. Sanchez, LAW ’95, is helping Latinas and Fordham Law students succeed.
By David McKay Wilson
Karla Sanchez faces down scam artists and fraudsters every day. It could be an Internet schemer trying to bilk people with promises of riches. It could be a training center convincing customers to pay $400 for a worthless class. Or it could be a mortgage broker luring buyers with low rates but selling loans that actually cost consumers more.
As New York’s executive deputy attorney general for economic justice, she oversees almost 200 employees in five bureaus of the attorney general’s office: antitrust, Internet, investor protection, consumer fraud, and real estate finance.
“Oftentimes, the victims of the scams we see are our society’s most vulnerable,” says Sanchez, who joined the attorney general’s office in 2011. “We work to right the wrongs suffered when one individual takes advantage of another.”
Sanchez says she had her eye on a career in public service when she graduated from Fordham Law School cum laude in 1995. She figured she’d work a few years in a private firm before moving to the public sector.
Instead, she spent 13 years at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, including seven years as the firm’s first Hispanic equity partner.
Each August, Sanchez returns to Fordham to talk with incoming first-year law students about the value of perseverance.
She explains that her initial application to Patterson Belknap was unsuccessful. As a prop, she shows students the rejection letter she received as a first-year Fordham Law student, after applying for a summer internship at the firm.
Several years later, while serving as a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts, Sanchez was impressed by the Patterson Belknap attorneys who came before the court.
“I put the rejection aside and tried again,” she says. “Those lawyers were the best, and I wanted to be with the best.”
Sanchez’s annual talk to incoming students is just one part of her ongoing commitment to Fordham Law, which she says welcomed her into its family as a student and has continued to provide her with an engaged, valuable network since her graduation.
“If you call up Fordham alumni and ask for something, nine out of ten times, you’ll get it,” says Sanchez, who has been giving back to Fordham in various ways since her graduation.
In 2014, for example, she spoke in Professor Clare Huntington’s class on Legislation and Regulation, sharing with students her experiences implementing regulatory oversight within the attorney general’s office. This April, she plans to serve as a panelist at the Urban Law Center’s conference “Shared Economy, Shared City: Urban Law and the New Economy.”
She also remains dedicated to supporting minority students at Fordham through the Law School’s Minority Mentorship Program.
For the past year, she has mentored Mital Patel, a second-year Fordham Law student who says Sanchez has been a valued mentor: accessible and willing to connect her with her vast legal network.
“She keeps me grounded,” says Patel. “She wants to make sure that what I’m doing in law school is truly something that I want, and that I’m not a lemming, just following the crowd.”
Born in New York, Sanchez, who attended high school in the Dominican Republic, also has helped build a network of Latina lawyers in New York City by co-founding an organization called Cafecitos, which brings together attorneys and judges in informal monthly morning meetings with coffee and occasional speakers.
Founded in 2006 with 40 participants, the group has since grown to more than 700.
“It’s a place where women come together to understand that they are not alone,” Sanchez says. “They meet successful women in all areas of law who are just like them.”