A Bit About Monica!
The short and quick version:
I’m a Costa Rican attorney who received my Master of Law (LL.M) degree from the University of St. Thomas School of Law, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Before coming to the US, I practiced corporate and insurance law in Costa Rica. I currently focus on business and cannabis law.
My passion for helping small businesses to grow and my professional values brought me to S Burns Legal PLLC, where I mix my knowledge and experience in Costa Rica with the US legal system, culture, language, and values. International Law Section of the American Bar Association and a Steering Committee member of the Latin America and Caribbean Committee.
Read on to learn more about my background and the experiences that made me who I am today.
Perseverance. The quality of continuing to try to achieve a particular aim despite difficulties.
Perseverance. The word that best describes me.
I was born and raised in San Jose, Costa Rica. And no, Costa Rica is neither an island nor only a jungle. But yes, it is a tiny country in Central America with a population of 5 million, and Spanish is our main language.
I have wanted to be a lawyer ever since I can remember. And somehow, I didn’t want to be just a lawyer. I wanted to have adventures, help people, know the world, experience freedom. I knew what I wanted since I was little. ‘
And I’ve been working towards that my whole life with perseverance and determination.
Knowing What I Wanted Was One Thing. But Timing was Everything.
When I graduated high school, and before starting law school (which in the U.S would be college), I wanted to do an international volunteer program. I wanted to go outside my country, experience the world, and very importantly, improve my English.
My English was not good. And I knew I wanted to study abroad in the future to obtain a master’s degree after receiving my attorney’s license in Costa Rica.
However, my mom knew I was not ready for that. I was just desperate and pushing a plan that needed time to incubate. I was 18. A young, eager, quasi-adult wanting to experience many things that, as a minor, I could not.
I remember being devastated when I didn’t have enough money to pay for a program, or when my mom told me why it was better to wait a couple of years; or at least until I got my bachelor’s degree (which in Costa Rica would be one step before obtaining the law degree and with that, be able to do the Bar Exam.) But I did. I waited.
Law School. Living my Dreams.
A struggle not to let my dreams outlive me.
I pursued 4 years of law school and graduated in 2016. I just needed 1 more year of school, plus my thesis, the bar exam, and I’d be done. In those years, I grew as a person and as a student in ways I could not explain.
I was studying full time, with schedules from 7 am to 2 pm every day of the week, working part-time in the afternoons as a legal assistant and paralegal in law firms, and enrolled in every single activity that the university had. I participated in an International Commercial Arbitration Moot in 2015 that included traveling to Chile for the oral rounds. Even though I didn’t have time.
Of course, not all was good. I started to have some health issues because of my schedule -and sometimes the lack of food- or having less time to hang out with my family or friends. I was also very, very tired. I needed a break in my life.
And so it happens that my time had come. I was able to go to the international program that I always wanted.
Making Mental Space for New Opportunities and Growth
Hugo, Oklahoma was my home for 1 year. Goodland Academy received me on its campus to teach Spanish to young men who were in vulnerable situations. It was a boarding school in the middle of nowhere. But I loved it. They became my second family – and still are.
While I was in Oklahoma, I realized that I wanted to practice business law when I returned to Costa Rica, but I wanted to do it differently. I wanted to work directly with people where I could see the direct impact on their business growth and the impact on their personal development.
And, as luck would have it, when I returned to Costa Rica, I was hired to work in the insurance law industry, something very new and edgy for most lawyers in Costa Rica. I was working with people, and I was connected to them, just as I wanted.
This position allowed me to finish my last year of law school, defend my thesis, study for the bar, and join the Costa Rican Bar Association.
At the same time, it helped me improve my problem-solving skills, be proactive, and look after the rights and good of the consumers, all while learning and experiencing new industries.
I started that chapter as an advanced law student and closed it as a practicing attorney.
Then I received the news that I was selected for a scholarship to attend the University of St. Thomas School of Law to pursue my legal master’s degree in Minnesota.
Another Challenge, Another Space to Grow.
That year was one of the toughest but happier years of my life.
I learned how to use every opportunity that life was giving me to grow in personal and professional areas; I learned about the U.S education system, working environment, culture, and weather, among others.
I truly believe that we don’t achieve our goals or dreams without the help of others. And that person for me in the professional area was Ms. Susan Burns.
Creativity, kindness, hard work, determination, and perseverance.
That’s what I have been learning in this firm and what I am able to offer and provide to our clients.