Dec 4, 201202:12 PMCity Beat
Capital Opinion by Michael A. Sand, Jacqueline G. Goodwin and others.
Harrisburg Attorney is Honored by State Bar Association
Last May, at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square, the Pennsylvania Bar Association Young Lawyers Division presented the Michael K. Smith Excellence in Service Award to Samara Gomez. The award is named in memory of a young Philadelphia lawyer who was committed to providing legal services for low-income people, and to offering law-related educational programs to students.
Gomez accepted the award with grace and humility. In her remarks, she noted, “There are thousands of young lawyers throughout the Commonwealth whose exemplary personal and professional conduct is nothing short of awe-inspiring, yet, they may never be recognized. So, I would like to dedicate this award to them. They have done and will do more for this profession than I can ever hope to accomplish.”
Regarding the last sentence, a more dispassionate analysis might reach a different conclusion. Because, at 30 years of age, Gomez has already established noteworthy credentials as an assistant counsel at the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA).
“My responsibilities focus on affordable housing, low-income housing tax credits, consumer lending, community-development programs, tax, foreclosure, real estate, employment matters and contracts and procurements,” she says. No wonder her office desk is covered with a variety of folders, documents and files.
Alluding to a specific example of her work, Gomez says, “PHFA sought a Section 811 Grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. Section 811 deals with supportive housing for persons with disabilities. I had to review and coordinate the application, pulling all the pieces together, and working with our staff to see that all of the requirements were met.”
Gomez is also responsible for PHFA’s implementation of and compliance with the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law. She responds to requests and represents PHFA before the Office of Open Records and the Commonwealth Court.
However, it is her activities with the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) that really earned the Vallejo, Calif., native the Smith Award this past spring in Lancaster. In 2011, for example, she implemented a pilot Bar Passage Program for the PBA Young Lawyers Division.
The program partners bar candidates with lawyer mentors to help the candidates prepare for the essay portion of the bar examination. Gomez worked with law schools and various organizations to obtain past bar essay questions and arranged for speakers to educate test-takers about the bar exam process.
At 18, Gomez enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., 3,000 miles from her West Coast home.
“Yes, I wanted to get away,” she confesses. “And I loved Washington, and the many friends that I made while in school.”
But there was little time for socializing or for extra-curricular activities. “I basically attended classes and worked my way through college,” she says. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2004.
Gomez moved on to Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law, where she was awarded her Juris Doctor Degree in 2007. While at Dickinson she served as an intern at the Family Law Clinic, the Capital Litigation Appeals Division of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office, as well as PHFA. And, like her undergraduate days at Howard, Gomez took employment to help defray her education and living expenses.
A full list of the Harrisburg woman’s accomplishments is not possible in this limited forum. They are the fruit of an exemplary work ethic that was planted in elementary school, where she first saw the phrase, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”
“I didn’t know it then, but those words would be a constant source of inspiration to me,” says Gomez.