A Strong Sense of Justice and Curiosity for the Law

A Conversation On Lessons Learned & Life In The Law With Paula Hernandez

Paula Hernandez is an associate in our Real Estate practice group who works out of our new San Bernardino office. Her practice focuses on land use, handling a wide range of cases involving legal issues related to environmental, zoning, real estate, and property law. 

We recently had the pleasure of talking with Paula about lessons learned, and her new life in the legal profession as an attorney at Fennemore.

As we enter July, this week we’re happy to turn the spotlight on Paula Hernandez who works out of our San Bernardino office! How are things going during the transition? And what’s your vision for the future as we continue to grow in Southern California?

The transition has been great. It’s been exciting to learn about all the opportunities and resources Fennemore has to offer. It has also been great to connect with Fennemore attorneys’ in the various offices. 

My hope for the future is that Fennemore continues to grow and expand in this region and leading the way as an innovative law firm.

Without naming your clients, are there any intriguing current matters that you’re working on in the land use/ real estate sector?

One of our clients was issued a building permit last year, granting him permission to construct a structure on his property. The client had performed substantial work and spent over $150,000 in reliance on the building permit, but now, the City is stating that it is revoking the building permit because it was issued in error and it violates the City’s Municipal Code. 

We have discovered evidence of political motion that likely triggered the City rescinding the budling permit. We filed a lengthy appeal letter on behalf of our client and are now waiting for the City Clerk to set a date for the public hearing before the City Council.

What would you tell your younger self – or a 1L at the Pepperdine University School of Law School now contemplating a career in the legal profession?

My advice to a 1L would be as follows:  Focus on writing and legal research.  Your mastery of these two skills sets will be critical to your career and help you thrive, no matter what area of law you eventually practice.  

Who is your hero – or the person who has had the greatest impact on your life and career?

My father. He studied law as a second career when I was a baby. Shortly after he graduated from law school, he opened his private practice in Riverside, focusing on immigration and family law. Growing up, I watched my dad help his community and he instilled in me a strong sense of justice and curiosity for the law. He encouraged me to always work hard.

Talk about your biggest failure. What did you learn? And how did you pick up the pieces and move forward?

One of my biggest failures to date was not passing the California bar exam the first time I took it. But it taught me perseverance and it caused me to have to adapt my approach to studying in order to achieve different results.

Success today sometimes requires us to be adapt when necessary.

What’s the best – and worst – piece of career advice that you’ve ever received?

Best piece of career advice:

I have received two great pieces of advice that I always keep in mind. 

  1. “Slow down and proofread, proofread, proofread.”
  2. “Learn to communicate effectively.” I was told that effective communication is about being concise and relevant. This skill will need to be learned, practiced, and honed throughout your career.

Worst piece of career advice:  “Opposing counsel is always your enemy.” By having this mentality, you often miss opportunities to collaborate and find solutions that benefit both our clients.

What are you currently listening to (podcast or music); reading; and watching/streaming?

Watching:  Formula 1: Drive to Survive

Reading: Think Again by Adam Grant (courtesy of James Goodnow)

Podcast: The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santo

Okay, last but not least, tell us more about the two months you spent in Kampala in 2014, working for the Ugandan Directorate of Public Prosecutions. What did you learn from this experience?

It was incredible opportunity to be able to see how the judicial and legal system functions in a different county. Uganda has, for years, faced a significant issue with case backlog in their courts.  My key role that summer was to assist in implementing plea bargaining and to train key stakeholders around on the country on its use. 

Many thanks to Paula – and to all of the new attorneys in our Southern California offices – for your creative insights that are already impacting our clients, and the communities where we live and serve!

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