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Tomas Hernandez named Assistant Dean of Career Planning & Development

by Jessica Rotter,

Brooke Trujillo, Tomas Hernandez, Rodrigo Fernandez-Ortega, Ulises Medrano


Tomas Hernandez
Tomas Hernandez JD'13

Tomas Hernandez JD’13 embarked on his legal journey with a genuine passion for making a difference in people’s lives. Transitioning out of active duty in the army, he sought out a career that would enable him to make an impact. He settled on pursuing a career as a lawyer,though his law school experience at Willamette Law was anything but typical. While already balancing a family, including a newborn, Hernandez was deployed in his second year.  He displayed an unwavering commitment to return to his legal education after 14 months of deployment. 

Upon graduating, Hernandez wasted no time building an impressive career. He joined Legal Aid Services of Oregon (LASO) as a staff attorney and immersed himself in the learning process of a new lawyer, gaining valuable insight into the intricacies of becoming  a practicing attorney. In this role, he focused  on assisting low-income community members who might otherwise be unable to access legal representation. Throughout this time, making a difference in people’s lives by breaking down barriers to legal services remained Hernandez’s primary goal.

Venturing into private practice, Hernandez worked in immigration law for a number of years before returning as a director for LASO. Reflecting on his career, Hernandez treasures the individual people he impacted. Notably, the cases that come to mind when Hernandez thinks about his career highlights involve his not only helping to represent clients in their legal cases, but also going above and beyond to ensure his clients maintained their dignity. 

His commitment to helping others extended beyond just his clients to the local legal community. Hernandez was dedicated to mentoring new and future lawyers, especially through the Oregon State Bar and Willamette Law’s Attorney Mentor Program. His commitment to supporting law students and guiding them on their legal journeys earned him the law school’s Mentor of the Year award in 2021. 

In reflecting on the importance of mentoring law students, Hernandez shares, “Students need role models and they need to know that they can accomplish their goals, particularly from someone who has walked the same journey. My aim was always to provide encouragement and support.”

Returning to his alma mater as the Associate Director for Career Planning and Development felt like a natural step for Hernandez. He was able to jump in and make an impact immediately, keeping him focused on his long-time career goal of helping others. He made it a point to get to know students and find new ways to get them engaged with the Office of Career Planning & Development (OCPD). 

“Almost immediately, I looked into student engagement to see how students were interacting with OCPD. I wanted to see what the trends were and how I could make an impact with the students, particularly engaging with our BIPOC students in a meaningful way,” he says. 

For Brooke Trujillo JD’23, Hernandez has been a mentor to her since her second year of law school. She also worked with Hernandez when she was a law clerk at LASO. The dedication he had to supporting others and his work ethic were contagious. Trujillo shares that Hernandez’s “guidance and mentorship have impacted my legal career tremendously.”  When it came to applying for jobs, or even just believing in her own capabilities, Trujillo was consistently motivated by Hernandez.  

As for his impact on the law school community, Trujillo says that Hernandez “doesn’t just try to help students achieve their goals, but he tries to connect with them as well. He is knowledgeable, honest, and gives constructive feedback.” 

Patrick Le JD’24 found a mentor in Hernandez following a challenging 1L year of law school. When the prospect of entering the legal field seemed daunting, Hernandez was able to work with Le to better explore and define his interests within law. He also helped Le feel that he was part of a community. Le says, “he graciously welcomed me into the Oregon legal community, connecting me with numerous outstanding mentors.”

Recognizing Hernandez’s significant impact during his first year at Willamette Law, he has been appointed to the role of Assistant Dean of Career Planning & Development. In this new position, Hernandez is determined to enhance programming for students, with a primary goal of building partnerships with local nonprofit and community organizations. He is also focused on strengthening the College of Law’s Pro Bono Honors Program

Willamette Law Dean Brian Gallini is looking forward to how Hernandez will make an impact for students. He shares, “we are lucky to have Dean Hernandez in this new role. He brings a student-centric philosophy alongside an admirable passion for ensuring that we are serving the whole student. I look forward to the many contributions Dean Hernandez will no doubt make to our community.”  

This new role marks a full circle moment for Hernandez. From the outset of his career, his focus was always on helping others. Now, he has the opportunity to guide aspiring law students in discovering the myriad ways they can positively impact others. 

About Willamette University College of Law

Willamette University College of Law was the first law school to open in the Pacific Northwest. Building on deep historic roots, we focus with pride on educating the next generation of problem-solving lawyers and leaders. Our location in Salem, Oregon, directly across the street from the Oregon State Capitol and Supreme Court, cannot be matched in the region. Our thought-leading scholars advance and promote our shared responsibility to make a difference in society, placing justice, fairness, and equality at the heart of everything we do.

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