Attorney, Hemmer & Barr
Area of Practice: Family Law
Year Graduated: 2008
Jennifer Hemmer has had two careers: one in sports marketing — working for the U.S. Soccer Federation, the National Basketball Association, and Visa — and one as a family law attorney at her mother's law office in Sacramento. Although sports marketing and family law may seem far removed from one another, it was Ms. Hemmer's experience with legal issues in the business world that inspired her transition to a legal career. In marketing, Ms. Hemmer negotiated contracts and frequently dealt with attorneys. (In fact, she was occasionally mistaken for an attorney herself during contract negotiations.) The lawyers with whom she interacted, she noticed, were "very smart people who loved what they did." This observation, coupled with the knowledge she'd gained by navigating legal issues as a businesswoman, planted in her the idea that she would eventually go to law school. When the time was right, Ms. Hemmer left her job at Visa in San Francisco to begin her legal education at McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific in her hometown of Sacramento.
Ms. Hemmer's path to family law practice was a circuitous and impressive one. After she graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, she played on a professional basketball team in Germany and then spent two years at Columbia University completing her Masters degree in International Relations with an emphasis in International Business. Originally, she intended to pursue a career in banking, but after several interviews with international banks, she realized that she wouldn't be happy in that field and began looking elsewhere for work. That's when she entered the world of sports marketing. Fifteen years later — looking for a career where she could make an impact and still have the flexibility to spend time with her family — Ms. Hemmer made the decision to start a new chapter of her life by attending McGeorge. "You have to choose what's important in your life. It was important for me not to be out of town," she reflects.
Ms. Hemmer began law school with the Beyond McGeorge rafting trip, a tradition for incoming students. The pre-orientation event took a group of first-year students, upperclassmen, faculty, and administrators on an overnight whitewater adventure along the rugged south fork of the American River. In her second and third years, Ms. Hemmer introduced new students to McGeorge as the Beyond McGeorge trip manager. She notes, "Some of my best memories from law school are of the people I met on those trips."
After her first year at McGeorge, the Civil Practice Clinic provided Ms. Hemmer with the opportunity to represent clients in settlement negotiations and in court as a Certified Law Student. In her third year, she worked as a judicial extern at the Sacramento County William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse, where she reported directly to the presiding judge. As a result of Ms. Hemmer's impressive performance, the judge invited her to work in his staff office and would often bring her into the courtroom to observe proceedings. This was a great way to see the family law system in action—she learned how the courthouse worked and gained a deeper understanding of family court procedures and substantive law.
When she graduated from McGeorge, Ms. Hemmer joined her mother's established family law practice as an attorney. "I could have done other things," she explains. "I could have done sports law and negotiated contracts. I could have had a job where I was in San Francisco, with Visa ... But I never helped someone [in my other jobs]. What I really love about family law is that I help someone every day…. Helping people sounds really trite, but I'd say that 99% of the clients who are finished here are very thankful for the time and the direction that I gave them."
Ms. Hemmer places an emphasis on making sure her clients understand what is truly important to their case and why. This can be a challenge, since some of the things that clients care about the most do not factor into the substantive law. She also helps her clients see that it is in their favor to be cooperative with their former spouse or partner, since family law cases often continue even after the court has issued orders, especially if the couple has children. For Ms. Hemmer, trial is a last resort. She notes that "the case is going to end best when both sides feel they have a fair deal," which happens more often when a case is resolved by settlement than by litigation.
In her free time, Ms. Hemmer runs the New Family Lawyers Group, which holds small monthly luncheons for Sacramento area attorneys who have recently begun practicing family law. Ms. Hemmer joined the group when she first started working as a lawyer, and — seeing an opportunity to give back to her community—she took over when the former head of the group expressed a desire to step down.
For students who are interested in family law, Ms. Hemmer recommends attending one of the luncheons organized by the Family Law Section of the Sacramento County Bar Association. These luncheons provide attorneys Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit, and give students the opportunity to learn more about family law and to network with local family law attorneys. Connections with these attorneys can be very useful for students who want to pursue a career in family law. Ms. Hemmer observes, "[Family Law is] unfortunately very difficult to get involved in, but it's a rewarding career that can be flexible to meet one's needs over the course of time. It's also a very fascinating area of law, and very challenging ... It touches so many areas of the law. I'm never bored."