Si se puede!
A Conversation On Leadership & Life In The Law With Attorney Miguel Saldaña
Miguel Saldaña is an associate attorney who works in our Business Litigation practice group from our Oakland office. Miguel has honed his interests in a broad range of litigation — from bankruptcy to real estate, intellectually property to commercial disputes.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Miguel about lessons learned, and his life in the legal profession.
Fennemore Wendel proudly celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month! The theme for 2022 is “Unidos: Inclusivity for a Stronger Nation.” So, in honor of this special occasion, in this week’s leadership profile, we turn the spotlight on attorney Miguel Saldaña who is very active in the East Bay’s Hispanic Community.
What does this month mean for you, especially as a high-profile attorney?
This month presents a great opportunity to both celebrate past achievements and also reflect on the future work that is necessary to help the next generation of Latino lawyers. It is well documented that Latinos are disproportionately underrepresented in the legal profession. In my home state of California, Latinos represent 36% of the population, yet only 7% of licensed lawyers.
Thus, I not only take a tremendous amount of pride in the fact that I am a Latino lawyer, but I also appreciate the responsibility that comes along with the title. For this reason, I am on the Board of the East Bay La Raza Lawyers Association and Scholarship Fund – organizations that focus on relationship building among the Latino lawyer community and providing financial assistance to law students.
Without naming your clients, are there any intriguing current matters that you’re working on in the business litigation sector?
I have a really interesting matter involving an intra-family business dispute. The case presents fairly straightforward legal claims, but the family dynamic adds a layer of complexity that I don’t see often in my cases. In a way, it humanizes the issues for me because I know that this litigation is impacting not just the litigants, but their entire family unit.
What would you tell your younger self – or a 1L at Boston College Law School (especially Hispanic men and women) now contemplating a career in the legal profession?
As Queen Elsa famously said, “Let It Go.” Law school is challenging, but don’t put more pressure on yourself than necessary. If you give 100% effort, allow yourself to live with the results. Also, a related piece of advice to Latino law students is: YOU. ARE. GOOD. ENOUGH.
Many Latinos (minorities in general) suffer from “imposter syndrome” in law school and in the legal profession. So I want to ensure that I do my part to model, support, and encourage the next generation of Latino lawyers. Si se puede! (Yes, it can be done!).
Who is your hero – or the person who has had the greatest impact on your life and career?
It may be a bit cheesy, but without a doubt my father: Fidel Saldaña. He came to the U.S. from Mexico with, literally, only the clothes on his back and worked hard to provide for his family. He didn’t finish elementary school, but he was one of the most intellectual and profound people I’ve ever met, and he understood the value of education. Despite working minimum-wage jobs, he managed to put me and my three siblings through college. Frankly, he made it easy for me to succeed because he sacrificed so much to give me an opportunity at my own American Dream.
Talk about your biggest failure. What did you learn? And how did you pick up the pieces and move forward?
In general, I’d say that one of my biggest failures was, until somewhat recently, not allowing my “authentic self” to come to work. Early in my career, I undervalued the benefits that my diverse cultural background and past experiences brought to the table. Having such a welcoming and supportive community at Wendel Rosen, and now Fennemore Wendel, has allowed me to see the benefits of diversity in the workplace.
What’s the best – and worst – piece of career advice that you’ve ever received?
One of the best pieces of career advice that I’ve received was from a lawyer when I worked at a law firm as a paralegal many years ago: “Don’t give someone a half-baked loaf of bread.” It means be thorough, don’t just do the minimum, and anticipate issues that may come up.
As lawyers, one of our main roles is to advise others, so it is critical to provide all of the information others need to make a decision.
One of my least favorite pieces of career advice is “don’t give 100% when 90% will do.” Although everyone would agree that efficiency is important, I am not wired to give anything less than full effort. I think that for many Latinos (and minorities in general) that come from disadvantaged backgrounds, we often have to give 100% (or more) to beat the odds and achieve success.
What are you currently listening to (podcast or music); reading; and watching/streaming?
This summer I had Bad Bunny’s latest album (“Un Verano Sin Ti”) on loop. His music is not only entertaining, but there are positive messages throughout that should be applauded – such as supporting LGBTQ rights, anti-misogyny and respecting women, and highlighting the socioeconomic inequalities in his home country of Puerto Rico.
As to reading, I have small children, so any extracurricular reading I do these days is for them. We are big fans of Mo Willems’ books!
Lastly, although it may not be a popular opinion here in the Bay Area, I religiously watch anything that has to do with Los Angeles sports (Go Lakers, Rams, and Dodgers!).
Last, but not least, you’re hosting a lavish dinner at your home. Name the three people – from any time in human history – who you’d invite.
In no particular order: Barack Obama, Kobe Bryant, and Jose Canchola. You’ve heard of the first two, but maybe not Mr. Canchola. He was a Mexican-American born to immigrant parents that worked hard, became a successful businessman, was the mayor of Nogales, and ultimately followed his passion for baseball by becoming a part owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
I met Mr. Canchola when I was in high school, and seeing someone that looked like me in such a successful and prominent position was life-changing. Maybe one day I can be someone else’s Jose Canchola.
Many thanks to Miguel for your profound insights – and to all of the Hispanic attorneys and allied legal professionals here at our firm who make such a positive impact on our clients, and the communities where we live and serve.
For more information about how our Business Litigation practice group can help your organization, please visit: https://www.fennemorelaw.com/services/practices/business-litigation/ .