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Member Spotlight: Nadia Bermudez

Nadia Bermudez: Lifting As You Climb

Jenn French*

Karen Hewitt
Nadia Bermudez

Introduction

Nadia Bermudez is a Shareholder and employment and business litigation attorney with Klinedinst PC. She represents businesses, public agencies, and individuals in state and federal courts in a wide range of employment and business litigation matters. Nadia has been consistently recognized by her peers as a Super Lawyer, a Top 25 Woman Attorney in San Diego, and a Leader in the Law for Employment Litigation.


In addition to her impressive 22-year legal career, Nadia is well known for her dedicated service to the legal community and to San Diego. She is a past president of Lawyers Club of San Diego, San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association Scholarship Fund, and California La Raza Lawyers Association. Nadia has served in a variety of leadership roles in those organizations as well as the San Diego County Bar Association, American Bar Association, and the Hispanic National Bar Association. In the Southern District, she volunteered as Chair and Member of numerous Merit Selection Panels for U.S. Magistrate Judge, as a Lawyer Representative, on Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Advisory Committee for the Southern District of California, and as Vice-Chair of the Judicial Selection Advisory Committee for San Diego and Imperial Counties.


Last, but certainly not least, Nadia proudly sits on the Board of Directors for the Chula Vista American Little League and is a self-proclaimed Baseball Mom. Her 11-year-old son Samuel is an awesome kid and baseball player. Last year, his All-Star Team in the 10-year-old division won second place in the Southern California Little League Tournament. She is also looking forward to the upcoming Padres season and attending as many games as she can.


The San Diego FBA is delighted to feature Nadia in this month’s member spotlight.




Path to Law School

Nadia grew up in El Centro, the middle child of three sisters and two brothers. When asked how her childhood influenced her career, she will tell you that she not only remembers "where she came from, she loves where she came from…” She has great pride in her hometown, El Centro, but Imperial County is quite different from its neighbor San Diego. The rural and agricultural area has no four-year universities, so students like Nadia who sought advanced education were forced to move away from home. Nadia recalls nervously asking her parents to pay application fees for only three schools, choosing to attend the University of California, Irvine thanks to a scholarship and acceptance to the school's Campuswide Honors Program. She had stellar mentors in college, including her older sister U.S. District Court Judge Ruth Bermudez Montenegro as well as Professors Mark Petracca and Cesar Sereseres.

Nadia majored in political science and ultimately decided to follow her sister’s path to law school instead of pursuing a PhD in political science. “If you have someone who has done it before in your world—parent, brother, etc.—it makes these lofty goals seem more ascertainable and it becomes an easier call. It doesn’t seem impossible anymore,” she remarked. Nadia’s younger sister also pursued a legal career after watching her sisters successfully achieve their dreams. Her little sister is also known as Judge Eran Marie Bermudez of the Imperial County Superior Court.


Nadia does a lot of outreach to law students with the La Raza Scholarship Fund and Lawyers Club, and she is frequently surprised by the number of law students who are the first in their families to go to college or who didn’t know any lawyers growing up. “It’s such a leap of faith for people to pursue [a legal career] without knowing anyone they can call on for advice and who has done it before.” Nadia has worked with the Scholarship Fund for 10 years, and she believes “it is hugely important for law students to see successful lawyers that look like them. Our Annual Gala is an important moment for them to be part of the community, embraced by it, and really see themselves in others.” Of course, the scholarship money helps students too, but the intimate events that law students are invited to attend, and the access to network and meet people in the San Diego legal community, is the true heart of the program.


Law School and Early Career

Nadia enjoyed attending law school at Stanford University. It provided the unique experience of a smaller, close-knit law school in a large university setting. She remains dear friends with many of her classmates, commenting that the smaller class size helped her avoid feeling lost in the shuffle. Chelsea Clinton attended undergrad at the same time, and Nadia laughingly remembered seeing secret service agents following her, trying to blend in as students. Nadia excelled at Stanford, which resulted in a range of attractive offers to work for firms in San Diego. She clerked for Heller Erhman and worked as a summer associate at Pillsbury Winthrop, where she spent the first four years of her practice.


Nadia began focusing on labor and employment during her time at Brown Law Group, which she found exciting and interesting. There, she worked under Janice Brown, a preeminent employment litigator. She continued that work as an equity partner at Garcia, Hernandez, Sawhney & Bermudez—where the firm focused on representing municipal entities—and Nadia’s concentration in employment law included private sector clients. In 2015, she joined Klinedinst to provide a better fit for her clients with a larger geographic reach. CEO Heather Rosing encouraged Nadia to make the transition, as the two had bonded through shared values of leadership and community service.


Current Practice at Klinedinst PC

In addition to her work in employment and business litigation cases, Nadia spends approximately 10% of her time in non-litigation work. She credits her success in counseling clients to her litigation experience. Nadia reports being in a better position to provide advice and counsel because she can credibly speak to the risks of litigation, how things may play out in court and in legal briefs, and what actions might result in claims or necessary disclosures. She enjoys counseling on litigation avoidance by knowing what the law is and what it requires. Nadia also conducts workplace investigations, helping clients resolve issues internally without resorting to litigation.

Approximately 25% of Nadia’s litigation cases are in federal court, although that varies. In both state and federal court, however, California law generally governs substantive employment claims and defenses. Nadia notes that, for larger corporations and entities, federal court often provides procedural advantages as well as opportunities to resolve and settle cases earlier in litigation. She has also noticed a shift in most of the larger companies now requiring arbitration of their employment disputes, so she has had an increased number of arbitrations in the last five years.


Nadia fondly recalled a bench trial she successfully tried in Los Angeles Superior Court in a business litigation case involving the international sale of scrap iron. “With every litigation that I get, it’s always interesting to get to know the industry and the business that I’m representing. I like getting to know how the business works and being a good partner to my client.” Representing clients in a variety of industries keeps Nadia’s work interesting. Her favorite part of being an attorney is talking clients through complex legal issues to help them understand the law so they can be successful in the future. Least favorite? Nadia recognizes that it can be difficult to explain how harsh and technical the law can be to business owners who genuinely believe they did everything right and treated their employees the best that they could.


Nadia enjoys learning about the ever-changing employment laws and regulations, and she teaches and conducts presentations for human resources groups and business professionals. She also hosts an annual end of year presentation to explain the new rules and how businesses can stay compliant. Nadia noted that she enjoys reading and writing about new case law, which is constantly evolving in the employment context.


FBA and Community Service

One of Nadia’s current community service roles includes membership on the San Diego Superior Court’s Anti-Bias and Legal Equality (ABLE) Committee. She observed that in both this role and as a Lawyer Representative, she and other attorneys function as an important conduit and liaison to the courts. While serving as a Co-Chair of the Lawyer Representatives, she organized the district's first POWER Act CLE to promote pro bono representation for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assaults, and stalking.


Nadia has been a member of the FBA since she first became a lawyer, with her most active involvement in the last 8 years. She served as a member of the Federal Bar Association’s Special Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion from 2017 through 2021. The task force resulted in creation of a variety of materials and reports, including the 2021 Annual Report on Diversity and Inclusion. Nadia takes great pride in the work the task force accomplished and was pleased to contribute to the FBA’s ongoing commitment to diversity as a core value. She values the San Diego FBA’s programming and opportunities to connect with other attorneys who are committed to improving the profession for others. The FBA is “large enough to be interesting and small enough to form close connections,” which are even more valuable and vital after the last three years of the COVID pandemic.


Advice for Younger Lawyers or Those Seeking Federal Court Experience

Nadia acknowledged an increase in her federal caseload the more time she spends with the FBA and attending events: “you end up attracting what you’re around.” She enjoys practicing in federal court and the access and close relationship to the judiciary that is fostered by the San Diego FBA. Nadia continues to be impressed with the professionalism of FBA members, inside and outside the courtroom. She encourages lawyers who seek federal experience to join the FBA and take advantage of the networking opportunities: “by being around federal court practitioners and them knowing you’re interested; it highlights you and puts your name in the forefront of their mind for referrals.” Networking has not only helped Nadia build her book of business but also be seen as a person whose broad personal relationships had allowed her to lead effectively and be asked to lead. While young lawyers may look up to leaders like her, they should appreciate the importance of building strong relationships with colleagues from the bar. For Nadia, it is as simple as saying hello and introducing yourself.


*Jenn French is a member of the San Diego FBA Board of Directors and serves as Vice-President of Public Relations. She is a trial attorney at Williams Iagmin LLP and Of Counsel at Patterson Law Group, APC.

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