Alex Peña ’18 has a knack either for being in the right place at the right time or for getting out in front of issues in order to make good things happen. Example one: On January 20, he was sworn in by President Joe Biden as the Special Assistant to the General Counsel of the US Department of Transportation (DOT).
Characteristically, to get the job, Peña had put himself forward. “Following last year’s historic general election,” he said, “I applied with the Biden-Harris presidential transition team hoping to make a return to the public sector during these incredibly pressing times.”
Peña will be working closely with the DOT’s senior leadership and nearly 500 attorneys to support the legal and policy matters concerning all of the department’s operating administrations.
Example two: As a second-year student at Boston College Law School, Peña had leapt at the chance to be the National Chair of the National Latina/o Law Student Association (NLLSA), a position that for years had gone to a third-year law student who could dedicate the time and energy required to lead and communicate with local chapters at more than 140 law schools.
It so happened that he stepped into the national chair post five weeks after the 2016 presidential election, which drastically altered his vision for the organization. “My inbox was flooded after the election with issues that became concerns of our members, literally overnight,” recounted Peña in a BC Law Magazine story in 2017. He found himself fielding urgent questions about issues that resonated deeply with the NLLSA community.
Careful to choose the organization’s moments and priorities, according to the magazine, Peña avoided political minefields and frequently steered the membership toward other national organizations that were better suited for direct engagement with policymakers. Still, he was able to put members’ passion into practice, adding 12 new chapters across the country and partnering with the Hispanic National Bar Association for the first time.
Peña has shown initiative in other arenas during his career. Most recently, he was an associate at the New York office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, an international law firm. There, he represented large financial institutions, lenders, borrowers, and equity sponsors in a wide variety of financial transactions, according to an announcement by the DOT. His work ranged from drafting principal loan documentation and legal opinions to negotiating the restructuring terms of existing debt. While at Morgan Lewis, Peña also served as a member of the New York Office’s Hiring Committee.
In 2019, he was published in the Marquette Law Review where he discussed the current state of Delaware law with respect to shareholder appraisal decisions and their potential impact on the legal pillars of US corporate law. During his BC Law years, Peña participated in the Amicus Brief Clinic, co-authoring a brief whose points were incorporated in a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision regarding proper standards for judicial dissolution of a corporation.
Peña was struck by the experience. “We spent half of the semester learning exactly what it takes to prepare a brief for the SJC,” he said at the time, “and when we found out the court adopted our main principles in the first decision of its kind, it was one of the most impactful BC Law experiences I have had.”
Peña’s experience toolbox further includes previous work at the New York State Senate for two-and-a-half years, serving as the Senate Democratic Conference Leader’s liaison and senior advisor to several state senators.
And now, thanks to his can-do attitude, Peña finds himself in a position to make a difference on a national scale. “This truly is a unique moment in our history. One that will see transformative engagement from the US Department of Transportation, as we begin the work under Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s leadership to modernize our country’s infrastructure, ensure racial equity, create good-paying jobs, invest in an equitable clean energy future, and ultimately enhance the quality of life in all of our communities, from the ranching towns of rural Montana to the busy streets of major metropolitan centers like New York City,” he said.
“I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to serve in the Biden-Harris Administration.”