I was born Celeste Hernandez-Gerety and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I grew up as the oldest of six children. I attended the University of New Mexico (UNM) for a year, intending to study some combination of music, Spanish, economics, and a host of other seemingly unrelated topics. But after spending my freshman year in the basement of UNM's Fine Arts building recording and editing a CD of original music, I left school to pursue a folksinging career. Two years later, after a small tour of west coast bars and coffee houses, I found myself in need of a different kind of intellectual stimulation than what I could get from writing songs (and more back support than I could get from sleeping on friends' couches). So I went back to school.
Returning to UNM, I decided to study political science, and eventually transferred to the University of Maryland–College Park (UMCP), where I graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Government & Politics and a minor in Spanish.
After college, I entered Yale Law School with a focus on public interest law. I started serving low-income clients through the Community Lawyering Clinic in my second semester, and eventually helped to manage the clinic as one of two Student Directors. I also served in leadership positions for a number of student organizations, including Yale Law Women, the Rebellious Lawyering Conference, the Latino Law Students Association, and the Student Board of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization. I worked my first summer of law school as a Law Clerk at the Legal Aid Society -- Employment Law Center in San Francisco, and my second as a Summer Associate for the litigation department of Morrison | Foerster in San Francisco.
"MoFo" offered me a job in their San Francisco office, but love forced me to decline. Shortly before graduating from law school, I married my husband, an officer in the U.S. Army. His career meant that we would "get" to move to new and exotic locations (like Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas or Ft. Bragg, North Carolina) every 1-2 years, presenting me with an interesting puzzle: how to create a thriving legal career in the face of constant geographic insecurity?
After law school, I moved back to New Mexico while my husband deployed to Iraq and worked as a Staff Attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law & Poverty. After a year, we were reassigned to the Kansas City area, and I started re-thinking the utility of getting a traditional job in which I'd spend six months getting my bearings, six months feeling confident and excited about my work, and then—POOF!—I'd disappear when the Army moved us to a new location.
Thus was born my Freelance Attorney practice. Working as a freelancer meant I could maintain a nationwide network of "attorney-clients" who needed project-based help with their legal (or sometimes non-legal) work, and who didn't mind working with me remotely. Indeed, most of my clients didn't just tolerate my remote situation---they preferred it. After all, they saved on overhead by not having to give me an office!
With so many incredible innovations in technology making it easier for people to stay connected regardless of their geographic locations, I'm convinced that the traditional model of office work is destined for at least partial obsolescence—especially in the legal world—and freelancers will be on the forefront of this new age of work.
Ultimately, this kind of work created a win-win situation: I provided my clients with a flexible, low-overhead solution for their project-based legal research and writing needs, and myself with the flexibility to embrace the chaotic lifestyle of a military spouse, while still doing interesting and challenging legal work.
But despite my belief in freelancing being the future, and the fun I had setting up my practice, I ultimately decided to change direction in my career. I now serve full-time as Of Counsel for one of my former freelance clients, The Paynter Law Firm PLLC, where I work on a wide variety of (mostly plaintiff-side class action) cases involving intellectual property, consumer protection, and antitrust issues, among others.
Deciding to make that transition was a difficult choice, because I really enjoyed my practice as a freelancer. In fact, I enjoyed my freelance practice so much that I wanted to help others embark on the same path, so I put together a class on freelance lawyering at Solo Practice University. But even though I'm no longer actively freelancing, I'm still very open to talking to others who are interested in building their freelance practices, so feel free to email me if you'd like to talk about freelancing...or just random thoughts about work and life (I have a lot of them, and I always like to hear others' ideas as well!).