Ana de Albaâ's Homegrown Activism
The daughter of immigrant workers returns to Central Valley, law degree in hand
Published in 2015 Northern California Super Lawyers magazine
on June 29, 2015
Updated on May 14, 2020
One summer day in 1986, 6-year-old Ana de Alba accompanied her mother and grandmother, Mexican immigrants, into the Central Valley tomato fields, bringing them water from a communal jug so they could work without a break.
When de Alba filled a cup for her mother, she saw that the sun-warmed water was a dirty brown. The little girl pointed this out to the supervisor, who hoisted her onto the tailgate of a truck in the field. He told her, within earshot of all the workers, that if anyone had a problem with the water, they could complain to immigration authorities. As young as she was, de Alba understood the threat.
When her older brother, Fernando, heard about the incident, he had this to say:
“You’re pretty mouthy. Become a lawyer!”
Today, she is a partner at Lang, Richert & Patch in Fresno, in the heart of the agriculturally rich Central Valley. She handles employment litigation, including wage and hour, wrongful termination and sexual harassment cases, and leads the 20-plus-attorney firm’s participation in community-service projects.
De Alba, 35, is a familiar face on Arriba Valle Central!, a morning show on Univision Fresno. She explains employment law and encourages viewers to bring work-related questions or problems to a free legal clinic she helped launch in Fresno. She has served on the state Bar’s committee on Delivery of Legal Services and been honored with awards including the 2012 California Young Lawyers Association Jack Berman Award of Achievement.
She planned to work for a legal non-profit after graduating from UC Berkeley School of Law in 2007, but her father had recently lost his job and she needed to help support her parents. De Alba says she’s grateful to her firm for hiring “a lefty liberal from Berkeley” and embracing her commitment to pro bono work.
The free legal clinic spearheaded by de Alba—in collaboration with the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center, Central California Legal Services and the Consulate of Mexico in Fresno—celebrated its third anniversary in April. It has expanded virtually into nearby Merced via Google Chat, and de Alba aims to take it into smaller, rural areas.
For de Alba, it’s all about realizing her dream of returning to help the needy in the area where she grew up. “I’m very proud,” she says, “of staying true to what I am and being able to succeed.”