The population of Willmar is about 20,000, and about 21 percent of its population is of Hispanic or Latino origin, according to the 2010 census. A large portion of the clientele at Mid Minnesota Legal Services in Willmar speaks only Spanish. For 20 years, clients, whether English-speaking or not, have had an ally in Maria Patino. So has the rest of the office.
The bilingual Patino manages the office from top to bottom, said supervising attorney Daniel Morris in nominating her. She also helps interpret and translate for clients, completes intakes in Spanish and assists in case management with clients. She also handles immigration files under the supervision of an immigration attorney, and her work is of the “utmost quality,” Morris says.
Like at any law firm, some non-legal issues find their ways into the office and Patino is always ready to help. She knows her community and can provide advice and referrals on a wide spectrum, Morris says. The clientele is young, and many are scared of immigration obstacles, Patino said, and count on her to keep them informed.
“Clients trust Maria, and her hard work enables us to serve more clients in the community,” Morris adds.