Member Spotlight: Patricia Hollenbeck
Patricia Hollenbeck: Outstanding Advocate, Risk-Taker, and Mentor
Rebecca G. Church*
Patricia Hollenbeck is an experienced litigator who has been practicing law for more than 35 years. She has become a fearless advocate by litigating hundreds of cases through trial or arbitration. She has developed a wealth of experience, in a diverse range of practice areas, by taking risks to grow her career. Throughout it all, Patty has been a source of encouragement and inspiration for the legal community and many mentees she has guided over the years.
Patricia Hollenbeck grew up in Denver, Colorado. She is a self-described “surprise” baby; Patty’s two older brothers are 13 and 14 years older. Because she was so much younger than her siblings, Patty spent a lot of her childhood with her parents. Patty’s father had retired from the U.S. Air Force and worked at a large military defense contractor in Denver, when he decided to take up golf. Patty would accompany him to the local Par 3 golf course and driving range. Soon, she asked if she could also play, her dad bought her a “tiny” set of clubs, and they learned the game together. Several years later, Patty’s mom took up the game. It became a family activity that led to many happy memories. Patty’s burgeoning golf training coincided with Title IX, an expansion of women’s athletics in higher education. It was a fortunate coincidence, and she was grateful for the opportunity to attend Stanford University to play on its women’s golf team.
Patty has always loved learning and she thrived in college. She filled her schedule taking classes from many different disciplines including writing, oceanography, chemistry, and political science. She took so many classes that she ended up double majoring in economics and an interdisciplinary major of her own creation: communications / social science, which she describes as a social science study of global idea dissemination.
After she graduated, Patty’s family encouraged her to return home to Denver. As she was considering law school, Patty learned that the University of Colorado had hired a woman dean, which was a welcome rarity. Patty chose to attend the University of Colorado School of Law in Boulder to her parents’ great relief. They were not only happy to have Patty home; they also hoped that Patty would stay in Colorado as she started her legal career. Their hopes may have been realized if it wasn’t for the two horrendous blizzards that struck as Patty was pursuing her juris doctorate. In the aftermath of those great chills, Patty decided it was time to relocate to Southern California where her brother was a squadron commander for the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Norton AFB in San Bernardino. After a 6-month stint working as an Associate Attorney for a law firm in the Inland Empire, Patty made her way to San Diego making it her home for over 35 years.
In 1986, Patty started her legal career in San Diego working as an Associate Attorney at Higgs Fletcher & Mack and made partner after six years. She enjoyed early guidance from her mentor Judith Haller, who has since become a justice on the California Court of Appeal. For Patty, it was important to have a woman role model who was also senior within the firm. At that time, the number of women entering law practice was increasing, but few had leadership roles. Patty saw how Justice Haller excelled in the practice of law and also managed to balance her personal life. Patty learned a great deal about priorities, boundaries, and giving her best to everything she did. Her practice started as insurance defense in a variety of settings such as auto accidents, products liability, and serious injury cases. Patty honed her advocacy skills, took hundreds of depositions, tried cases, and learned to think on her feet under pressure. As her practice matured, she started focusing on business litigation.
Patty grew a book of business supported by paint and appliance manufacturers as well as franchise litigation and business disputes worth tens of millions of dollars. Patty worked tirelessly with the goal of becoming the best attorney she could be. She also attended to the business side of law by building and maintaining relationships with her clients. She always strove to do great work so her clients would want to continue to give her work. She also focused on being relevant and accessible. Patty kept track of her clients’ lives, showed an interest in their goals, followed up on pending items, and made sure she was always in touch. After all, if your client has not heard from you in a while, how can they send you more work? Patty avoided that conundrum by staying attentive to her clients.
In 2001, Patty’s practice was again evolving, and she realized it was time to make a change. Just as Patty was thinking about moving her practice, she heard about a woman who was opening and managing an office in San Diego for a Pennsylvania firm, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC. The managing shareholder of the San Diego office was Karen Crawford, who has since become a U.S. Magistrate Judge. When Patty and Judge Crawford met, they instantly knew it was a match. In this new firm, Patty’s franchise practice flourished, and she expanded into higher-level business disputes, intellectual property, and arbitration work. She worked at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC until 2005.
Patty and Judge Crawford became great friends and colleagues. When the time came, the pair (and the rest of the office, except for one attorney who chose to join an IP boutique) moved to Duane Morris LLP where Patty has practiced as a partner in the commercial litigation group since 2005. Since joining Duane Morris, Patty has handled over two hundred arbitrations and arbitrated to award in excess of fifty cases before a number of forums, including the American Arbitration Association.
In the last several years, Patty’s practice has moved towards federal court focused on unfair competition as well as trademark infringement, trade secrets, franchise law, class actions, and invasion of privacy, which is part of the reason she became more involved with the San Diego Federal Bar Association. She has attended San Diego FBA favorite events such as the Holiday Party and Judicial Law Clerk Reception as well as the annual Judith N. Keep Seminar and the annual State of the District Luncheon. She has also served as a panelist for several FBA presentations including sessions on discovery, cross-examination, and civility. Although her practice brings her to each of the federal districts in California, she considers the Southern District her home. She is happy to contribute to the professionalism and collegiality that marks federal practice in San Diego.
In addition, in the past few years, Patty has taken another step in her career that was supported by her vast arbitration experience. Patty has become an arbitrator on the AAA Commercial Arbitration panel thus pivoting from advocate to decision maker. It has taught her to think and act differently in this new setting. She relishes an opportunity to dig into the facts and law to arrive at a just decision. Finally, Patty has also received over 80 hours of training in mediation. She has mediated hundreds of cases as an advocate and, as a strong proponent of the mediation process, felt it was important to learn the perspective of the mediator to hone her skills as an advocate and to assist others in exploring settlement.
Patty has been able to do so many different things during her legal career by staying nimble and adapting to changes in the market and her community. She was never afraid to take risks and make a move when she needed new and different opportunities to grow.
To say that Patty has been involved in her legal community seems like an understatement. Currently, she serves on the board of directors for the San Diego Inn of Court (trial training program) as vice-president and program chair for the Evidence and Trial programs. She is a past president of Lawyers Club of San Diego and remains a committed volunteer for the organization. She has served as a board member for the San Diego Country Bar Association, the Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL), and the Downtown San Diego Partnership. In addition, she is a Master in the Louis M. Welsh American Inn of Court, teaches deposition and trial skills for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, served on the Tom Homann LGBT Law Association Foundation, and had multiple three-year terms on the California Lawyers Association, Franchise Law and Business Litigation Committees. Patty seeks out these service opportunities because it helps her stay interested and excited about her legal career. She likes to get to know people, especially people with different experiences.
Patty has also been celebrated over her career. One of her most significant recognitions was the Cheryl Blackwell Bryson Leadership Award from the Duane Morris Women’s Initiative. This award directly recognizes her role in developing the women law firm leaders of tomorrow. It is fitting because Patty has always volunteered her time to mentor newer attorneys.
Outside of the Law
Patty still loves to play golf. She has co-chaired the Lawyers Club’s golf tournament, which supports Lawyers Club’s 501(c)(3), the Fund for Justice, and is assisting with the San Diego FBA’s efforts to launch a golf tournament this year. Perhaps a close second to her love of golf is her love of tequila (in an appropriate setting, of course). And Patty still balances it all by devoting time to her family, including cherishing her 9-month-old grandson.
Patty also does not take herself too seriously. She wore zany sunglasses in the pictures that went along with her weekly Lawyers Club President’s messages. She also continues to dress up for her favorite holiday, Halloween. She has a quick wit and irresistible flair which keeps her friends and colleagues in stitches.
Advice for Newer Attorneys
Patty has always remembered what it felt like to be a newer attorney. To the attorneys coming up today, Patty stresses that a career in the law is not easy. A successful legal career is grounded in hard work and dedication. You have to do everything you can to be the best attorney you can be. There are no shortcuts. She also advises newer attorneys to keep their goals in mind, but do not be afraid to change directions. To have a long legal career, one must stay interested and prepared to grow into new challenges. If you find yourself wanting to change directions, trust yourself to explore other options. Do not be afraid. Finally, pass on what you have learned. One of the most rewarding parts of achieving the status that Patty has obtained is seeing all of the attorneys she has mentored over the years elevate their practices as well.
*Rebecca G. Church is the Immediate Past-President of the Federal Bar Association, San Diego Chapter and former Associate Attorney at Duane Morris LLP practicing with Patricia Hollenbeck. Rebecca is grateful for Patty’s support, guidance, and friendship.