As a child, Irene Liscano (J.D. ’16) dreamt of being a fighter pilot. A family friend was a high-ranking pilot for the Venezuelan national airline, and on visits to their home, she often read flight books. Even with that early inspiration, naysayers convinced her that women could not be pilots if they wanted to raise a family. So, she put the dream of joining the Air Force on hold until she came to Georgia State College of Law.
Liscano was born in Atlanta and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She earned her undergraduate and her master degrees in international affairs at Georgia Tech. After graduation, she spent a couple of years working in intelligence, but she couldn’t shake the voices of professors and friends who thought she’d make an outstanding attorney. This led her to enroll at the College of Law, where she learned about to several areas of law, including property law, urban development and being a military attorney, or JAG.
Now, serving in her fourth year as a JAG officer, Liscano wants others to know the rich possibilities of upholding the rule of law and serving a greater cause.
Why Georgia State Law?
I knew I wanted to stay in metro Atlanta and not have any debt. I graduated debt-free with three degrees. I went to law school at night. I had three part-time jobs—I worked as a certified court interpreter, teaching Spanish and as a civil mediator through the externship program with Bonnie Powell.
What made being a JAG officer appealing to you?
I worked in the intelligence community in national security prior to law school and I wanted to do it again. In law school, I met Ray English, who was over career services at the time. He knew my story and he had been an Air Force JAG before. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go into private practice or join a large corporate firm. The military provided me with another opportunity to serve my country.
What would you tell someone about joining the military?
It has been a wonderful experience for me. The first couple of years are challenging because you’re not just an attorney, you’re an officer, and officership is a considerable part of what you do. I didn’t have a military background before, so there was a dual learning curve.
What is like being a woman in the field?
The Air Force continuously works to achieve a more inclusive and equal work environment. Yet, it is challenging to be a woman in the military, especially for a racial minority like me. Most supervisory positions are held my males, and that has been my experience as a JAG. Though this is changing-- and the Air Force is actively pursuing this change-- the process is slow. Additionally, I recently became a mom and my life completely changed. I have a supportive husband and I am very grateful to him. It can be tough, though, to juggle being a mom (especially during the first years of the child’s life), a wife, an officer and a JAG, and strive to be excellent at all of it.
You recently started working on sex crimes. Military sexual assault is often treated like a dirty little secret in the Armed Forces, as it’s depicted in the documentary, “The Invisible War,” for example. What impact do you hope to make in this new role?
I think the impact that I make is on each of my clients who has either been a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence. The road they have to go on is so hard because they have to navigate getting their lives back together and go through the military justice process. Some of my clients aren’t active duty members, but rather civilians who have either been assaulted by someone in the military—either a stranger or their spouse in a domestic violence situation. In the latter case, they have to figure out how they are going to care for their families, possibly transition out of base housing and what resources are available to them. Some of my clients are active duty members and they have to try to overcome a traumatic assault while continuing to serve. The impact that I can make is that I can advise them on their legal rights and advocate on their behalf so those rights are protected.
How did GSU Law prepare you for what you are doing right now?
A law degree is not so much about the classes you take as much as it is about teaching you a different way of thinking, dissecting information and coming up with a persuasive argument. There were times in law school when I’d be in class and wonder, why am I taking this? Then, after graduation it all came together. Law school is about how to handle enormous amounts of information and apply legal reasoning in order to get at what you want more efficiently and effectively.
Interview by Kelundra Smith
Disclaimer: no federal endorsement stated or implied.