Celebrating Pride Month with Joseph Guajardo

June 10, 2024 | Podcasts

In celebration of Pride Month, Dallas attorney Joseph T. Guajardo joins the Fast Takes podcast to share his journey to becoming a lawyer at Jackson Walker and his leadership role in the LGBTQ+ Attorney Resource Group.

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Our Host:

Courtney WhiteCourtney White
Research Attorney, Dallas & Houston
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Instagram: @courthousecouture

Episode Guest:

Joe Guajardo
Partner, Dallas
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Episode Transcription

Courtney White: Hi, everyone, I am Courtney White, and this is Jackson Walker Fast Takes. Jackson Walker deeply values various cultures and cultural experiences. And Jackson Walker is extremely proud of our LGBTQ+ attorneys and allied professionals who have provided leadership and helped shape our firm into what it is today. I asked my colleague Joe Guajardo, a partner in the Dallas office, to join this episode. Joe, welcome to the podcast.

Joe Guajardo: Hi, Courtney. Thanks for having me.

Courtney White: You’re welcome. You’re welcome. I’m excited to have you here. So Joe, will you please share your story, your journey to becoming an attorney and your journey to Jackson Walker?

Joe Guajardo: Sure. So, it’s funny my first experience meeting, really any lawyer or interacting with any law firm at all was actually with Jackson Walker. So, a little further back.

Courtney White: I did not know that. That is awesome.

Joe Guajardo: Yeah, it’s kind of, it’s interesting how things kind of work out. So, I was born in a small town in the suburbs of Houston to a working-class, blue-collar family. You know, my dad worked in the chemical plants, my mom stayed home to raise the family. You’ll understand why my mom stayed home to raise a family when I tell you I come from a very large family. I have 4 brothers and 10 sisters.

Courtney White: Oh, wow, that is a big family.

Joe Guajardo: So, you know, for us growing up, education was not really that important to my family. Of course, my parents expected us to finish high school, get a job, work hard, contribute to the community, go to church, and raise a family. But you know, they didn’t go to college, and their parents didn’t go to college. So there wasn’t really any expectation for us to do that. For me, though, pretty early on, I knew that I was gonna go to college and possibly law school or med school or be an accountant, or something. And I think a part of that is just because school was really one of the only things that I was really good at. I kind of thrived at it. I tried piano and that just wasn’t for me. And I certainly wasn’t good at sports, I was not a particularly good artist. And so I thought, you know, school is for me, I’m gonna stick it out. I’m gonna see where this takes me.

I was the first in my family to graduate college. And after working in a sales job after college for a few years, I decided, you know, I think it’s time for me to start exploring whether to go to law school. And given my background, the problem for me was I didn’t know any lawyers. And I started to realize that I was probably basing my decision about going to law school and becoming a lawyer on what I’d read in books or what I saw on television. And maybe that was not a true representation of what life is like, as a lawyer.

Courtney White: That is so true. I know that Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show was the first black female lawyer that I saw. So that shaped why I wanted to be a lawyer.

Joe Guajardo: Yeah, I mean, that’s for a lot of us, that’s where we find out or that’s where our first impression is, right? It’s on television. So, before I quit my job and the benefits and all, undertook the time, effort, energy, and the big financial commitment of going to law school, I thought, I need to know more, I need to meet some lawyers. So, I started reaching out to people that I knew that might be able to connect me with practicing lawyers. And one of the first people that I reached out to, was one of my good college friends named Melissa Bates. And you know Melissa. She’s Jackson Walker’s director of attorney development.

Courtney White: Yes.

Joe Guajardo: At the time, which, you know, at this point is 12 years, no, more than 12 years, because I’ve been at the firm for 12 years. So this was probably 15 years ago, Melissa was a recruiting coordinator, working with Jackson Walker’s Summer Associate Program. And so I reached out to Melissa and said, Melissa, I’m thinking about going to law school, I don’t really know any lawyers, would you be willing to put me in touch with some lawyers at the firm that you work with? And she said, hey, look, we actually have our summer associates doing their mock trial program this week. Why don’t you come in and be a juror, we need jurors for the mock trial program. And she said, there’ll be a happy hour after the program, and you can talk to the students about their experience in law school, and there’ll be attorneys you can talk to. And then you know, from there, you can see if law school is the right fit for you. So that’s what I did. I showed up. I was a juror on the mock trial program for the summer associates and met people. And you know, fast forward a few years, I started law school I interviewed with JW. Got my summer clerkship and you know, as they say, the rest is history.

Courtney White: That is so cool. I had no idea that Melissa is your connection to coming to JW. I think stories like that just reaffirm the collegial and even at times familial, like relationship that people have with each other at the firm. That is awesome.

Joe Guajardo: Yeah. And I think it’s great that we’re both still here too. I think that’s a testament to the firm that we’re still here.

Courtney White: Exactly, exactly. That is so awesome, Joe. Well, I’d also love to hear about the LGBTQ+ attorney resource group that you lead.

Joe Guajardo: Yeah. So, you know, the group exists in my mind, from my perspective. It exists to ensure that everyone who comes to Jackson Walker, whether they’re a summer associate, whether they’re a new fall associate, whether a lateral hire, everyone who comes to JW, really, genuinely feels like they belong. And they can show up to work, they can be their true authentic self every day. And you know, when you think that you don’t fit into a perceived norm, you might be inclined to hide a part of yourself in order to fit in. And we want people focusing on our clients, and then the important work that we do for our clients and helping out our colleagues and being good firm citizens, and delivering the best results that we can. And if our people feel like maybe they don’t belong, or they need to put on some sort of armor, or some sort of metaphorical mask before they come into the office every day, that doesn’t serve those purposes. And so, our group exists primarily in my mind to create some visibility for people to understand, there are others like me, who have lifestyles like me, or maybe don’t fit into some perceived norm. And, you know, I don’t think that there is a norm, you know, we sometimes in our mind think, well, I’m not, I don’t fit in. And so it is to create visibility and connections among people.

It’s also exists to educate others, and also for us to get together and provide feedback to the powers that be about things that maybe could change or be different. But as the LRG lead, I’m just one of a member of the group. And really, this is a group where everyone has a voice and has a say. Decisions are made as a group about how we spend our time, and our budget, and our energies. And so, I really think, you know, we’ve got some work to do. It’s a relatively new group formed in the last few years. And so, we’re still kind of charting where we’re going, but I’m very excited about it. And I think there’s a lot of opportunity, and I’m just really pleased that it exists.

Courtney White: I am as well. I’m a big advocate as the leader of the Black Lawyer Resource Group of our attorney resource groups. And I’m thankful that the LGBTQ+ Attorney Resource Group exists as well. So Joe, thank you so much for coming to share your story today during pride month.

Joe Guajardo: Thank you so much for having me.

Courtney White: And for more information and additional JW Fast Takes podcasts and webinars, please visit JW.com/Fast.

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The music is by Eve Searls.

The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Meet Joe

Joseph T. Guajardo is an experienced transactional lawyer who works closely with clients in a full range of corporate matters, including mergers and acquisitions, private placement of debt and equity securities, entity formation and governance, joint ventures, and general corporate counseling. In addition to his extensive M&A work in the healthcare sector, Joe also represents clients in the energy, manufacturing, real estate, and technology industries.

In This Story

Joseph T. Guajardo
Partner, Dallas

Courtney J. White
Research Attorney, Dallas