Never Stop Perfecting Your Writing & Never Give Up

A Conversation On Leadership & Life In The Law With Ernie Riffenburgh

Ernest (“Ernie”) Riffenburgh is a director in our San Bernardino office with extensive experience in the purchase, sale, leasing, and subdivision of commercial, industrial, mining, and recreation and resort real property, as well as the resolution of title issues, mapping, easements, licenses, and property rights derived from government agencies.

We recently had the pleasure of talking with Ernie about lessons learned and his life in the legal profession.

In this week’s leadership profile, we’re happy to visit the Inland Empire and our new San Bernardino office and turn the spotlight on attorney Ernie Riffenburgh! How’s life at Fennemore – and what’s your vision for the firm as we continue to grow in California?

It’s great! After 39 years (and counting) in the profession, joining Fennemore has been an exhilarating fresh start (but this time with experience!).  Every single person in this transition has been delightful.  Thrilled to be part of this team.  We stand to become a pre-eminent firm in California. Let’s take a moment to breathe after all these mergers, then plan our best strategy to continue growth.

Without naming your clients, are there any intriguing current matters or trends that you’re seeing in the real estate and mining law sectors?

In real estate, Kevin Randolph and I have been working for over four years on a fascinating project, to develop a sleepy County airport into a major international air hub.  That has been great fun. 

In mining, I have been working for 30 years on the shutdown and sell off of mining and railroad assets of a huge closed mine.  We just received a new project for it last week.

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

Don’t believe the professors who tell you not to read the outlines, and to just “wait for the light to come on” by listening to the lectures! Buy and read the damn outlines, so that you understand how it all fits together from the start!

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

I have two – my parents.  They whole-heartedly supported my three brothers and I in whatever we chose to pursue.  For me, it was the law.  They encouraged me at every step, shared the ups and downs, and made college & law school financially possible.  I can never adequately pay it back, only pay it forward in kind to those I love.  In the meantime, they were fearless, successful entrepreneurs.

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

Fortunately, only a few disappointments along the way.  As the old song refrain goes, “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again!”

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

Best: 1) Never stop perfecting your writing and 2) Never give up.

Worst: Never received any bad advice, only encouragement.

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

Music: Baroque music (Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann) while working keeps me calm and focused.
Reading: Multiple books on famous 20th Century auto designers. 

Watching: I’m becoming a “TikTok” fanatic. (HaHa)

Okay, last but not least, you’re hosting a lavish dinner party at your home – name the three people (from any time in human history) who you would invite.

Hmmm…guests must “sing for their supper” by being part of the entertainment, as well as enjoying it; so:

-Benjamin Franklin

-Kitty Carlisle Hart – (died a few years ago at 96, after giving a lavish dinner party in her home, and still doing eight performances a week of her one-woman show on Broadway)

-Alexander the Great

Many thanks to Ernie – and all of the attorneys in our Real Estate and Mining Law practice groups making a positive impact on our clients!

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