Judging the circumstances that led to Sarah Loera signing on as associate lawyer for the Michael M. Phillips Law Firm in Angleton, it was inevitable her path would lead to success.
It all started with her parents.
Her mom, Nilia, came from Guatemala in 1985 as a teenager and began working for the Jimmy Phillips Law Firm as a greeter and receptionist, Loera said.
“She was 18 going on 19 years old, and she heard that Mr. Phillips was looking for somebody,” Loera said. “He and his wife kind of took her in. They sort of adopted her. She lived with them for a few years.”
Ramon, Loera’s dad, came to the U.S. at the age of 9 from Mexico without his parents. His father died when he was 7 and his mother abandoned him. His sister and older brother took care of him and helped him make the move.
“He was the one that really instilled the hard work with me,” Loera said. “He said you have to work for what you want.”
Nilia and Ramon met at a little church where they took classes to learn English. They married on Valentine’s Day 1989 and Lorea was born the same year.
Loera’s childhood is filled with memories of being in the Phillips law offices.
The law firm is run by three Phillips — Sen. Jimmy Phillips, and his sons, Jimmy Phillips Jr. and Michael Phillips. When Michael Phillips graduated in 1971, they built the Angleton office building so all three could practice together, Loera said.
“A lot of times I feel kind of as though I were their kid,” she said. “They’re like family.”
In 2008, when Loera was 19, she became a receptionist for Jimmy Phillips Jr.
“I was in college and they needed somebody that helped them with the reception duties or file documents at the courthouse,” Sarah Loera said. “I helped them file papers and they would let me read the documents, and then I would check for grammar mistakes or just little errors that might happen and I worked as a receptionist until I graduated from college.”
Sarah Loera attended Brazosport College for one year then Alvin Community College before transferring to the University of Houston-Downtown. While she took classes in Houston, she would help out in Jimmy Phillip Jr.’s office. He was very flexible about working around her schedule, she said.
She graduated with a bachelor of science in biological and physical sciences and did an alternate certificate to become a teacher. She taught integrated physics and chemistry for five years at Angleton High.
While teaching, she still worked for the firm, this time under Michael Phillips because he kept slightly later office hours, she said.
“He said, ‘You could help tutor my son, but I have legal documents that I need drafts or things for,” Loera said. “I would help him do some of the drafting of his legal documents. And so that’s how I kept in touch with the law. Sometimes I’d call him just for advice and things like that. And then about my fifth year into teaching, I said, ‘Hey, I want to try to go to law school.”
With ambitions of becoming a prosecutor, Loera started the process to get into the Thurgood Marshall Law School at Texas Southern University.
She called Michael Phillips on her first day of class.
“I kind of cried a little bit, because I had never been scared. I always felt comfortable,” Loera said. “I’m born and raised in Angleton and it was my comfort zone. It is still is my comfort zone, and going through school, I did well, and I had high expectations and I was OK.
“I said, ‘Now I’m in law school,’ and I remember I called Michael, because I said, ‘Hey, it’s my first day of school. What am I supposed to do? Or how do I act? What if, what if I’m asked something and I don’t know the answer to it.’ I remember my fear was, there’s going to be a lot of men here, and they’re going to know more than me.”
His support proved to be invaluable with helping her reach her goals, providing knowledge and understanding of the law that gave her a leg up over her cohorts, she said.
With the assistance from her parents, Loera finished law school debt-free.
Looking back over her life, she says that she did face some adversities, but her father never allowed her to use it as an excuse to hold her back or not work hard.
With that mindset, Loera put her nose to the grind, sacrificed family time and studied sometimes 60 hours a week for three years until she graduated last May.
On Oct. 28, she signed on as an attorney with Michael Phillips’ law firm, and her goal is to focus on helping others with language barriers like her parents had in the probate and immigration areas of law.
“Even normally doing wills is very difficult. But in the Hispanic culture, a lot of them say when I die, I die,” Loera said. “They don’t understand that your kids won’t be able to take your property without having a will or without having that fixed before your death. I want to be able to kind of educate in that realm, but also immigration.”
Loera is thankful for the life her parents have given her by coming to America. She’s also thankful to the Phillips family for all they have done, she said.
“I’m happy that she’s here with us and it’s exhilarating to see her success,” Michael Phillips said.