Inspired by Family, Driven by the Mission

December 15, 2023

UIW Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel Named Among City’s Top Attorneys

Cynthia EscamillaGrowing up, Cynthia Escamilla spent many days sitting in the backseat of her parents’ car as the family drove to the Incarnate Word campus. Her father, then a student at St. Mary’s University, attended religion and science classes at Incarnate Word, and Escamilla often came along for the drive to campus. Today, her work as the Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel for the University she grew up visiting, has earned her the honor of being named one of the city’s top attorneys by San Antonio Magazine.  

Attorneys must be nominated by a number of local lawyers to be considered for the honor. The publication sends a survey to area attorneys, asking them a simple question – which three of your peers in each area of practice would you personally trust with your legal care? The magazine then selects the top percentage of nomination recipients in each area of practice before confirming good standing with the state bar association. For Escamilla, being nominated by other attorneys in the field is a high honor, and one that she doesn’t take for granted. 

Cynthia Escamilla with family“It’s always nice to know that your colleagues out in the working community of attorneys have tossed your name in the ring for something like this,” she said with a grateful, but humble smile. “I’m always happy to get the accolade and I don’t downplay it, but I’ve always felt that the work should speak for itself.”  

Her work does, and always has. 

Though she earned an undergraduate degree in advertising from the University of Texas at Austin, she quickly realized that her initial chosen path wasn’t quite the right fit. Unsure what her next steps would be, she gave into the playful “peer pressure” of her college roommates to take the LSAT exam. With that, her next step was settled, and she enrolled in UT’s School of Law.  What followed has been a testament to her desire to succeed and the mentors who inspired her along her journey. Prior to joining Incarnate Word, Escamilla worked as a litigator, and then as a corporate senior legal counsel for a Fortune 200 company, managing all aspects of corporate risk and litigation throughout state and federal courts in the U.S.   

As Escamilla’s career blossomed, so did her family life. Her husband, Paul, who Escamilla says was molded by a strong mother, was her biggest fan and supported every career move she made. Together, she and Paul raised three children – it was when their youngest child turned five that she turned to UIW in search of a place to plant long-term roots so that she could be as present as possible for all of her children’s milestones.  

“I said, ‘I have three kids and they are my priority,’” she remembered of her initial round of interviews with UIW in 2006. “And I was surprised they hired me. There are not a lot of people who would do that. But that tells the story of what UIW is. Recognizing family is so important.” 

Family always has been the most important thing in her life. Her mother is remembered for her kind and loving heart, a characteristic Escamilla says she always strives to emulate. When she passed, Escamilla and her father resumed their car rides together, only this time he was retired and driving her to depositions, courtroom appearances and more. She sat in the backseat yet again, studying notes and putting the finishing touches on her courtroom strategies as he proudly and safely drove her to where she needed to be. Though he has since passed as well, her career at UIW has provided a place where she can continue to feel close to him and the rest of her family as well. Through the years, she’s proudly watched as nieces, nephews and her own son have attended and graduated from the places she has devoted the last 17 years of her career to.  

Cynthia Escamilla at UIWToday, Escamilla continues to serve as UIW’s Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, a role in which she serves on the President’s Advisory Council and is responsible for directing all legal matters that pertain to the University of the Incarnate Word system, including its Broadway campus, two campuses in Mexico and St. Anthony Catholic High School. She shares that she is grateful to have been able to experience UIW in many roles – employee, tía, parent – as each one better equipped her to serve the University as a leader. She values the work she does in the background to help the University continue its Mission.  

“I believe in what we do,” she said. “I think we do change lives here. I can see generational change in the larger student community, but of course, also in the great majority of Latinos that we educate. And that speaks to me personally, as a Latina woman, and as somebody that understands how our education can make a difference in people's lives. Our Mission completely keeps me here.” 

Inspired and taught by her parents, it's a Mission she embodies in every case and legal endeavor.  

“It isn’t about the wins and losses,” she explained of her career. “It’s really about how people are impacted … we’re only here for a short period of time. We should do what we can to help people.”