Diversity is not just a topic that comes up in a small committee in our firm. It has become a part of the fabric of our firm.

A Conversation On Leadership & Lessons Learned From Travis Pacheco’s Life In The Law

Attorney Travis Pacheco is an integral member of Fennemore’s robust Employment & Labor practice group who works on L&E matters and business litigation. As a ninth-generation Arizonan fluent in Spanish, he also helps lead the firm’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

We recently had the pleasure of talking with Travis about his work and life in the legal profession.

As Chair of our firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, why do you believe promoting diversity is important? 

I believe that prioritizing diversity within organizations helps to create equal opportunities for diverse individuals, makes entities stronger, and fosters new ideas and progress.  It also allows individuals to understand each other better and to appreciate both similarities and differences – despite coming from different backgrounds, cultures or areas.

Whether it’s in the business world, academics, the professions, or in sports, we see that diverse teams tend to excel, relate more easily to others, and to garner more trust from the diverse communities in which we live and work.

Talk about your vision for 2022, and some of the current activities within the Diversity & Inclusion Council and Working Groups.

Diversity is not just a topic that comes up in a small committee in our firm.  It has become a part of the fabric of our firm.  Our Council has grown to close to 65 members comprised of attorneys and staff, which is a significant percentage of our firm.  In 2021, we created six Working Groups within the Council that each focus on different D&I initiatives and activities, such as recruitment and retention of diverse attorneys and staff; integrating social networks within our firm; and education and training on diversity-related topics. 

Throughout the year, our attorneys and staff collaborate on various projects and set both short-term and long-term goals.  Over the past year, our Council has held two firmwide D&I training seminars over Zoom, created a diversity-related book club, hosted two cultural cooking shows, regularly circulated internal and external educational materials, and contributed our time and funds toward student groups and multiple local charitable organizations that serve underprivileged areas.  

The Working Group model has worked well so far.  It encourages participation from many members of the Council, and allows us to more quickly move the ball forward.  For 2022, our Council’s Working Groups are expected to build on that momentum and accomplish even more.  I am also hopeful that we will see a return to more in-person events and activities where we can more actively support diverse organizations in person, establish greater connections with some of our firm’s partnering organizations, and create more networking opportunities for our firm’s attorneys/staff and for students interested in the legal profession.    

As an employment & labor attorney, you’re also an integral part of one of the busiest practice groups at the firm. As we enter the third year of the pandemic, what should businesses know about the constantly-changing landscape of keeping workforces and workplaces safe?

The law is trying to catch up with the fast-spreading impact of the virus in the workplace.  Unfortunately, there is no clearly-defined roadmap that employers can follow.  The one thing that remains constant is an employer’s general legal duty to keep the workplace safe and free of recognized hazards, including COVID-19.  Although the scope of that duty remains uncertain and is still being developed through litigation in the courts, employers would be wise to remember that general duty and to use a common-sense approach to limit the spread of the virus in the workplace and when implementing safety protocols.  Best practices include regular cleaning, encouraging good hygiene practices and vaccination, promoting social distancing, limiting unnecessary travel, mask usage indoors in congested areas, and/or allowing remote work – where feasible.  Permitting or requesting large groups to gather indoors is not a good idea during the pandemic.  

I think employers need to accept and embrace that the workplace will never be the same as it was before the pandemic.  For many companies, the days of having entire workforces come into a centralized office each day are largely over.  Those businesses who remain flexible with respect to employee work schedules, needs, and company policies will likely be successful during these challenging times and have a more satisfied workforce. 

What would you tell your younger self – or a 1L at the U of A College of Law now contemplating a career in the legal profession?

It’s not too late for medical school…

All kidding aside, I think I would tell my younger self (or a 1L who is dependent on student loans for law school) to try hard to seek out scholarships for law school and prepare financially for the future. Law students are educated about substantive areas of the law and about the profession through law school and mentorship. However, I don’t think many law students fully appreciate the financial burden and length of time it can take to pay back the cost of law school and significant student loan debt after law school – particularly when you are raising a family.

Those who proactively seek out scholarships or are fortunate to receive a scholarship for school are at a significant economic advantage upon entering the legal profession. When not saddled with student loan debt, attorneys may have more freedom and choices available to them for their career path.

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

My parents.  They were high school sweethearts growing up in Tucson, Arizona.  They had three children by age 25 and worked hard to raise and provide for me and my siblings.  They have been my role models in many ways – particularly in demonstrating hard work, solid parenting, and treating all people with dignity and respect. 

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

After law school, I joined the law firm Lewis & Roca in Phoenix as an associate attorney after having clerked there the prior summer.  At the time, it was a dream job for me, and I worked hard to get that opportunity.  When I joined Lewis & Roca at the end of September of 2008, the economy took a nosedive that quickly resulted in the great recession.  Unfortunately, I was included in a group of junior associates that were let go within a few months in January of 2009.  Being let go soon after becoming licensed as an attorney (and shortly before I was to get married) was a major setback in my life.  I felt like I had to start over and prove myself after having diligently paved my own path. 

But I didn’t sulk or let the negative or bitterness set in.  I understood that the recession impacted all industries and many people, and companies had to make tough decisions.  It was a humbling experience for many of us – particularly in my generation that had really never had to deal with a crushing blow to the U.S. economy.  I learned from the outset of my career that I cannot control everything that happens to me, and that sometimes, you have to learn how to adapt and pivot in the face of adversity.  I quickly began seeking out opportunities, meeting new people, and applying for a wide variety of attorney positions. 

Fortunately, another local firm, Jennings, Haug & Cunningham gave me an opportunity to practice law – for which I am forever grateful.  I ended up becoming a Partner at that firm, and working there for a decade before making the move to Fennemore to practice employment law.  Looking back, I can’t imagine a better outcome for me personally.    

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

Best career advice: Don’t just focus on getting a “good job” after college. It’s best to pursue a path to a professional career, so you are not reliant on any one particular job or employer.

Worst career advice: None that I can think of.  I have been fortunate to have many good people in my corner throughout my life who have all shared helpful suggestions and guidance along the way.   

During our ongoing pandemic – the NEXT normal, what are you listening to (podcast or music); reading; and watching/streaming?

Listening: I listen to a wide variety of music, including classic rock, jazz, Latin music, and movie scores.  Over the last year or so, I have really enjoyed Chris Stapleton’s music. 

Reading: I don’t read much for fun since I read so much for work on a daily basis. 

Watching: I just finished watching the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO.  The show (starring Larry David) has been around for many years, but it is still so funny.  I still watch SNL almost every Saturday too.  

Like many Fennemore attorneys, you’re a man of many talents – a former competitive baseball player and classically-trained in piano. What’s your go-to song to play if you’re entertaining family and friends?

Por una Cabeza (an Argentine Tango). For an extra challenge, I’ll play Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor.

Many thanks to Travis and all of the diverse attorneys and allied legal professionals who make help to make Fennemore such a special place to work!

For more information about our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, please visit:  https://www.fennemorelaw.com/about-us/diversity/ .

And to learn more about our employment and labor relations team, advising and defending companies in virtually all aspects of the employment relationship, please visit: https://www.fennemorelaw.com/services/practices/employment-and-labor-relations/ .

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