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Griselda Aldrete’s career path has been a journey. A native of Milwaukee, she has never shied away from opportunities and challenges in the things she has set out to do. She has plied her considerable talent in the non-profit, government, corporate and now legal realms. She served as President and CEO of Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee (HPGM) for eight years where she grew the organization’s footprint, budget and brand. She then led the City of Milwaukee’s Fire and Police Commission (FPC) as its first Hispanic executive director in the midst of a global pandemic and national civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd. A corporate engagement followed Aldrete’s government service to the citizens of Milwaukee when she joined Alliant Energy in Madison as director of stakeholder engagement. Her journey continues to add intriguing stops considering her most recent announcement as partner at the law firm of Hansen Reynolds LLC.
“Everything that I’ve done to date, has always been just a little different,” she said in a recent interview. “I feel the need to keep challenging myself and showing younger generations that you can carve your own path in your own unique way.”
The full-time practice of law wasn’t always the goal. While working full-time as President and CEO of HPGM, Aldrete attended law school part-time and graduated in 2017 from Marquette University Law School (MULS). While at MULS, Aldrete observed that a lot of her fellow part-time classmates weren’t necessarily planning to go into a full-time legal practice, but rather use their legal education – and credentials – to further and enhance their non-legal careers.
“I just loved the way law school teaches critical thinking. It refreshed my perspectives and provided new tools to handle so many different issues,” Aldrete said. “It even helped me negotiate better partnerships for HPGM, manage the board better, and remain focused on the most important organizational issues. My legal education and training background shows up in just about everything I do.”
Obtaining a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree can and will open doors.
“As a Hispanic woman, I think credentials matter,” Aldrete said. “I really thought obtaining a law degree would provide additional career options at the appropriate time. It was a challenge, and it was not easy, but I wanted to most of all prove to myself that I could do it. And I did.”
Even as she used her legal education in her varying leadership roles, and to teach criminal justice as an adjunct instructor at various local universities for the previous 10 plus years, she remained open to the possibility of practicing law full time.
“I never ruled it out,” she said. “I knew the opportunity to practice law was going to be limited based on my career path decisions, but the intrinsic value of the law degree enhanced my critical thinking and communication skills.”
That opportunity ultimately came to fruition last summer when a partner at Hansen Reynolds approached Aldrete about joining the firm. Aldrete said she interviewed the firm as much as they interviewed her. “Company culture matters a lot. Knowing that the legal field has been traditionally very male-dominated and white, I wanted to make sure this opportunity and this firm were right for me and my skill sets,” she said.
In the end it did feel right, and the opportunity aligned with other considerations on Aldrete’s mind such as increasing minority and female representation within the mid to large business legal firm environment.
Aldrete says she learned the following mantra from a close mentor of hers a long time ago which fueled her work ethic, tenacity and ability to build long-lasting relationships. “A mentor of mine often says that it is not enough to want something in life; you must also prepare yourself to receive it,” she said. And Aldrete has done just that as the first person of color to join the 12-year-old firm as a partner. She has already discussed diversity and inclusion initiatives that will intentionally diversify the firm’s talent pool – which can sometimes be a challenge for smaller firms.
The way she came to the law practice also differentiates her from the other partners.
“My role is intentionally different,” she said, as she’s been tasked with leveraging her expansive network to help the firm develop new business and new markets while focusing upon service and retention for existing clients. “I’m doing client management, business development, actively helping to litigate and learning to mediate matters – It’s very different from what one may think about in terms of the traditional practice of law.” Aldrete is just completed a mediation skills training certificate program from Northwestern University to help grow the firms’ mediation and investigative practice.
Her new partners are equally as enthusiastic to have Aldrete at the firm. “We are incredibly excited to have Griselda join our team,” said co-founder Toby Reynolds. “She brings experience and a perspective from the business community that was previously lacking at Hansen Reynolds LLC. We pride ourselves on being able to help our clients work through complex business and legal issues, and Griselda brings valuable insights to the table to help us better do that.”
While she wasn’t necessarily looking to go into an active legal practice, Aldrete saw something special in what Hansen Reynolds had to offer.
“What drew me to the firm is that it has an entrepreneurial feel and the variety of areas of practice the firm handles, which include manufacturing, intellectual property, commercial, law enforcement, criminal, employment, tax and the list goes on. For someone who’s run organizations and businesses before, I really was intrigued by that,” she said. “It feeds my entrepreneurial spirit, my desire to be a life-long learner and allows me to focus on our clients in unique ways that only firms such as Hansen Reynolds can do.”
Even as she embarks on this new journey, Aldrete’s passion for giving back and paying it forward drives her to continue spending time mentoring and advising young professionals to be open to opportunities and chase their dreams. “There’s no linear path for any one of us. It’s really up to us to take ownership of our own career path and future development,” she said. “What I’ve learned is, don’t be afraid to take chances…it will help you grow and never be afraid to ask for help, advice and guidance.”