ALUMNI PROFILE Fernando Hernandez Paredes
Paying it forward
As long as he can remember, Fernando Hernandez Paredes (JD ’21) wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer, but the path forward wasn’t always clear. Born in Mexico, Paredes immigrated to the United States with his family in 1998. As a DACA recipient, Paredes says his financial and educational opportunities could be limited. “I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer,” he says, “but there was a time where I didn’t believe it was possible.”
When Loyola University Chicago School of Law offered him a scholarship, Paredes transferred from another law school after his first year. Today, his childhood dream has been realized: He works on criminal defense cases at Manuel Cardenas and Associates and plans to become a public defender.
Here, Paredes shares his best tips for navigating law school, getting involved, and building a legacy.
Strike a balance
Paredes enrolled in Loyola’s part-time JD option called the Weekend JD program. During the week, he worked as a construction designer, planning kitchen setups and custom cabinetry. On evenings and weekends, he studied. “You didn’t even feel the six-hour classes you took over the weekend because they flew by so quickly,” he says. “It was perfect with my schedule.”
“I expected to come to [Loyola] and just go to class, go home, go to the library. I actually ended up becoming the president of [the Latino Law Students Association].”
Find your crew
When Paredes took a few night classes, he met full-time students who encouraged him to get more involved in law school life. One evening, he tagged along to a Latino Law Students Association (LLSA) meeting. “I expected to come to [Loyola] and just go to class, go home, go to the library,” he says. “I actually ended up becoming the president of LLSA.” As president, Paredes made it his mission to encourage other part-time students to get more involved in law school life. He scheduled all LLSA events after 5 p.m. so students with day jobs could attend more easily, and he made sure events were advertised to Weekend JD students.
Pay it forward
Paredes and fellow student Elizabeth Flores (JD ’21) established the Castillo Scholars Mentorship Program, which helps students all over the country apply to law school. During the program’s first year, they expected about 20 people would apply; they ended up with 100 participants. Although the program was designed for first-generation and Latino students, students from a variety of backgrounds reached out, so Paredes and Flores expanded the program to include any prospective law students. Law school applicants were matched with Loyola Law students who provided guidance on the LSAT, resumes, cover letters, networking, and every part of the law school application process. Even though Paredes and Flores have graduated, the program continues today through LLSA.
Paredes sees the program as a continuation of the help he received all through law school. “I’d like to say that I did it all by myself, but I absolutely did not,” he says. “I had so much help, whether it was from friends in school, whether it was the administration. It was all because of them that I made it.” –Megan Kirby