Attorney at Law Magazine sat down with Jennifer Olmedo-Rodriguez of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in the 2020 Women in Law special issue to discuss her career and her aspirations.
AALM: When did you decide to become a lawyer and why?
JOR: When I walked into my Constitutional Law debate class as a high school junior, I was assigned to the First Amendment panel and became hooked. I set out to obtain my JD quickly – working my way through FIU and graduating with honors in three years at 20 years old; the first in my family to graduate college. I attended law school with a full scholarship and graduated with honors after serving on the Florida Law Review and securing a position as a law clerk for a United States District Judge. My path was set, and the rest is history.
AALM: Did your family ever want you to be something else?
JOR: My family never attended college, but instilled in me the importance of hard work and an education. Aft er immigrating to the United States, they focused on making ends meet to ensure my sister and I could strive for and achieve more. They never spoke about any particular career; instead teaching us to forge independent paths through an education.
AALM: How supportive are fellow women practitioners? How do you try to help women?
JOR: Women lawyers are some of the most supportive mentors and colleagues I’ve encountered. When I first started practicing, it was challenging to find mothers of small children who were also partners at national law firms. I struggled to reconcile those two very demanding roles. Slowly I found my way and committed myself to helping women understand you can excel at both. I recruited a new mother to join our firm while she was six weeks postpartum – something she touts to this day as exemplifying Buchanan’s culture and values. Now, it is more common to find working mothers excelling as partners in national law firms. We have an obligation to raise each other up, amplify each other’s voices and promote and celebrate each other’s successes. I benefitted from the support and encouragement of women colleagues and am committed to paying it forward.
AALM: How do you balance your home and work life?
JOR: It is all about my village! Without my amazing husband and big Cuban family, I could not do what I do. I tell people I won the husband lottery. My husband is also a litigator so at times our conflicting schedules require interesting logistical discussions. Extended family group texts are routine when coordinating litigation schedules, sports and extra-curricular activities, business travel, school pickups and social commitments. Our sons are blessed that grandparents, great-grandparents, tias/tios primos, madrinas and our framily (friends who are family) play a big part in their everyday lives.
AALM: How are you involved in the legal and local community?
JOR: I strive to give back as much as possible. I sit on the executive board of FIU’s President’s Council. I am president of the Rosemary Barkett Appellate American Inn of Court and sit on the board of the Third District Court Historical Society. I was also appointed by the president of The Florida Bar to sit on the Appellate Court Rules Committee to provide recommendations to the Florida Supreme Court concerning the rules of appellate procedure. I am also committed to giving back to the community and finding ways to utilize the firm’s platform to make a difference whether by working with Legal Services of Greater Miami to adopt families during the holidays or securing the firm’s approval for all of the shareholders in the Miami office to travel to Texas for a week-long pro bono project where we spent 10 hours a day inside a detention facility working with over 50 women, fathers and children (3-16 years old), explaining the intimidating process, preparing them for credible fear interviews and providing emotional support and compassion.
AALM: What first drew you to your firm? Tell us about your role there.
JOR: The people and our culture. Whenever I introduce people to our firm, they comment on how special a place Buchanan is and how committed we are to each other’s success. I am privileged to have spent the majority of my career here starting as a summer associate and now practicing as a shareholder in the litigation and civil appellate practice groups. For the past two years I have also served as head of the Miami Office – tasked with leading one of Buchanan’s fastest growing offices as one of six women across the firm to hold that position. During my tenure, our office (comprised primarily of women lawyers) has more than doubled in size and includes a diverse group of fiercely talented lawyers.
AALM: What traits do you think make an attorney exceptional?
JOR: Practicing law can be grueling, stressful and, at times, disheartening. Good lawyers know the law, understand clients’ goals and want to win. An outstanding lawyer feels the client’s pain and is dedicated to finding the best solution. Grit, perseverance, hard work and thick skin keep you going. Confidence allows you to advocate persuasively. Humility reminds you there is always more to learn and different ways to problem-solve. Empathy helps you feel your clients’ pain. Creativity allows you to think outside the box even when the odds are stacked against your position.
AALM: What accomplishment are you most proud of achieving?
JOR: Of course, my family. But, beyond the easy answer, my proudest accomplishment is that with each success I validate the sacrifices my grandparents made by coming to this country in search of the American Dream. Those who know me know how much I identify as a strong, resilient first generation Cuban-American woman. I grew up keenly aware of the challenges immigrants face while chasing the American Dream. That awareness remains top of mind and motivates me every day. My close-knit immigrant family was a powerful influence in shaping the person I am and the values I strive for in my personal and professional life. For me, family honor transformed the desire to succeed from a selfish goal into a validation of my family’s sacrifices and legacy. Any success I achieve is never solely my own; I attribute it to the immensity of their sacrifices and the incredible foresight they had to flee Cuba for the United States to forge a new life.
AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
JOR: Traveling! Luckily, my husband, sons and the rest of our family willingly come along on the adventures I plan. I am always “inventando” to push us outside our comfort zones and experience new foods, places and things. They call me our family’s frustrated travel agent.