For Jennifer Gomez Hardy, her Latin surname brings together two cultural sources that provide her with a balance that pleases her. “Dominican in Puerto Rico. I have the best of both worlds.” The successful attorney talked about her career, her experience during the pandemic and the main concerns of her practice at the Hispanic Media office in Philadelphia.
“I´m originally from Allentown, first generation. My mother is from Dominican Republic. My dad is from Puerto Rico. After high school I decided to go to California, stayed for a couple of years there. The Y2K made my parents thought that everything was going to crash down and I have to be with the family. So I came back to the East Coast.”
Jennifer´s passion for justice started when she was seven years old. Homelessness triggered her desire to help those in need. “When I was seven years old I wanted to help homeless people and as I grew up I decided to attack issues that I´m passionate about. So, I joined this non-profit organization where I participated in grassroot actions.”
To be at the table
But according to the Latina attorney she needed another level to go deeper into social participation. “I think that there is definitely power in the grassroot organizations network, but I wanted to be at the table. It´s like you´re getting your message across but you need to reach people at the table and that are making decisions. I needed to do something that put me at the table.”
Jennifer Gomez Hardy is a board member of the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, and the Lawyer Referral and Information Service. She is a recipient of the 2018 Super Lawyers Rising Star Award.
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She opened the Gomez Law Group. From there, Jennifer offers assistance to victims from injuries resulting from transportation collisions, premises or product defects, workplace accidents, negligent security and falls. “I do all personal injuries. The majority of my practice is personal injuries.”
“Being part of the Hispanic Bar Association is huge because you have this platform where people look at you for a number of reasons: answers, directions and inspiration.” However, the positive impact of her practice on the community, Jennifer is concerned for the low representation of Hispanic lawyers.
“It´s shocking to know that over 75.000 lawyers in Pennsylvania, only a little over a thousand lawyers are Latinos. That shows me that we need to bring other people up. It´s not enough for me to be in a courtroom. It´s my responsibility to bring other people up because those numbers don´t represent our Latino community here.”
COVID-19 changed the plans
“In January, before the COVID-19 began, I had so many aspirations but by March, the whole city was shut down. What does that mean for my business? Well, people were not involved in accidents and we weren´t getting all the new leads coming in because people were not just out.” But for her resolute personality this meant a challenge that demanded positive actions. “I said to myself: this is not going to distract me from what I need to do. I still want to talk about the detention centers, about getting out to vote. I still want to reach people and let them know that we exist.”
The obstacles set by the pandemic did not stop her. Jennifer´s remarkable energy has allowed her to explore growing possibilities. “We developed relationships with Philadelphia VIP which helps people in their businesses and other minor issues and it´s free. We also started a scholarship on John Nelson´s name,” the attorney said.
“It´s a bit crazy because with the pandemics expectations were pretty low but in spite of it, there was work to be done. And that´s what we did. We got people out to vote, I was in different neighborhoods setting people to get to their right locations because if you don´t vote your issues go down to the bottom. It´s the way to get the attention of political leaders.”
The immigration issue
Jennifer approaches the complex situation from a perspective which bets on balance and understanding. “I think with the transition of administration it´s going to take a different direction. They are saying that they need a process that works. They don´t want people crossing the river and risking their lives to get here. They want them to acknowledge that if they want to come they need to follow a, b, c and d steps. If they do that, then there can be a dialogue over being legitimized here.”
In her opinion, in order to reach agreements fear must be overcome. “I think of the word ´FEAR´ as an acronym: Fake Evidence Appearing to be Real. That feeling makes us give life to things that are not real. And I think that with the last administration they were fueling this fear on immigrants as a menace to our jobs, our children and our security so people couldn´t accept and appreciate that immigrants are coming over here for a reason.”
Stick to work ethics
Flexibility and creativity are key in her personal code. They have helped to build her successful career “As a Latina I wasn´t always coming through the front door, and I didn´t have a silver spoon, so I always have to be creative. I don´t go straight through the door but I look for a window or a little crack. It´s always about being flexible and try to figure out something else.”
But, when advising those Latinas eager to make their dreams come true, she believes work ethics is fundamental. “First thing is to be good at your craft, always come prepared, and always give a hundred per cent. Secondly is to look and get for opportunities to show that you´re prepared, that you´re eager. A difference between my generation and the younger generation is the work ethics. Nowadays people are paid more to stay home than to work. So it is hard even as a business owner to find people with work ethics. So, if you come with work ethics, I´m telling you that´ll take you to another level.”