Every case reads like its own unique story and can present a variety of complex and intertwining legal questions

A Conversation On Leadership & Lessons Learned With Attorney Lisa Lenherr

In this week’s leadership profile, we headed to California’s East Bay to talk with attorney Lisa Lenherr in our Oakland office!

You are a newly minted Director and you have recently been named one of our Northern California Super Lawyers® – congratulations and what does this recognition and accolades mean to you at this juncture in your career?

 It’s always awesome to be appreciated and recognized for your hard work. I believe in doing my best work always, with no exception. That kind of dedication pays off.

What would you tell your younger self, or a 1L at the Lewis & Clark Law School currently contemplating a career in the legal profession?

Well, I don’t believe in regret, so I definitely wouldn’t give my younger self advice!

As for advice for a 1L, that’s a tricky question without knowing the person. The law is not for everyone. I was one of those weird people who really loved law school and it led me into a career that I find interesting and challenging in a truly rewarding way. That is definitely not the majority storyline and there are a lot of really unhappy and deeply unfulfilled attorneys out there.

Without naming your clients, are there any intriguing current matters that you’re working on in your bankruptcy practice?

Bankruptcy touches on all aspects of law, so practitioners need to have a working understanding of a diverse group of subjects, including: tax, family law, environmental law, real estate, insurance, finance, fraud . . . the list goes on and on.

Early in my career my focus was on distressed real estate assets and failing small businesses, representing both debtors and creditors. These days the majority of my work is representing Chapter 7 trustees in their efforts to liquidate assets to pay creditors.

Recent cases have involved individuals with rental properties or defunct businesses, and another case involved a company that ran numerous duty-free stores on the US border and also had an alcohol import business out of Florida and several locations on the West Coast (US customs law is super fascinating!). Every case reads like its own unique story and can present a variety of complex and intertwining legal questions, many of which have to be resolved expeditiously.    

Who is the person who has had the greatest impact on your career?

The person who had the greatest impact on my career was Jim Tiemstra, who passed away in 2020. He hired me right out of law school and I worked with him for nine years, up until he retired.

He was a phenomenal bankruptcy attorney—a stalwart and esteemed member of our close knit Bay Area bankruptcy community. I feel very privileged and honored to have been trained by him. I think it’s fair to say that every day I go to work I strive to honor his legacy of excellence.

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

Any “biggest failure” of mine has surely been blocked out of my memory and probably relates to my parenting abilities. But really I don’t believe in failure because failure is nothing more than a valuable learning opportunity. As my kids say: practice makes progress!

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

Best advice: take secured transactions! That course changed my trajectory and is the reason I am a bankruptcy attorney today.

Worst advice: you won’t be a successful attorney unless you dedicate every waking moment to the law.

As it happens, those two pieces of advice were from the same attorney.

There is a fair bit of hazing that goes on in the legal field, and I have never bought into it. Each individual has their own version of “success.” I have always valued interesting work with people I like over the size of a paycheck. I have also always made time to have a family, spend time with friends, and at least *try* to keep up on my many hobbies and pastimes. You definitely can’t have it all, but you can absolutely be more than just an attorney.

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

Listening to: I’m a Pandora radio gal, and some favorite stations are: John Prine Radio, Guy Clark Radio, and Zach Bryan Radio.

Reading: I’m currently reading Everyday Utopia: What 2,000 Years of Wild Experiments Can Teach Us About the Good Life by professor Kristen R. Ghodsee. I was a philosophy major in college and have always had a soft spot in my heart for Plato’s Republic and Thomas More’s Utopia, both of which are drawn on in Ghodsee’s book. If you are like me and enjoy history, and thinking about what it means to live an interesting and fulfilling life, you should give it a read!

Watching: One of my 12 year old twin daughters has the whole family working through the 32 Marvel movies in storyline chronological order. Superheroes and comic books are not my jam, but I’m trying to be a good sport about it. Did you catch that there are 32 of them?! So basically I’ve watched only Marvel Movies since June. We just finished #10 and so far we all agree that the Guardians of the Galaxy are the best ones. 

You and your family and friends are hosting a lavish dinner party, Name the three people – from any time in human history – who you would invite.

You know, these days I would really just love to have dinner with my two best girlfriends who live in Seattle and Portland. Our lives are all so full and busy and we never seem to get enough time together. When it comes down to it, our chosen family and time with old friends is really where it’s at.

(One of my daughters requests: Groot (Marvel character), Rocket (Marvel character), and Grandma Mazur (from the Stephanie Plum books).)

Thank you so much for inspiring us with your wit and wisdom, Lisa!

And for more information about partnering with our Financial Restructuring team, please visit: https://www.fennemorelaw.com/services/practices/financial-restructuring-bankruptcy-creditors-rights/