Paul Hemming is one of the few people who can say he has helped build a tunnel as well as a law practice. The chair of the HCBA Eminent Domain Section worked as a civil engineer before switching to law just over a decade ago. He’s now a shareholder at Briggs & Morgan. Delaying his entry into law turned out to be a benefit for Hemming.
Even though law school had always been on the back of his mind, Hemming wasn’t quite ready to head there after finishing his undergraduate degree. “At that point I thought I had enough school and I wanted to get in the workforce. I wanted to start earning a living. I thought, well, I've got my engineering degree now, the last thing I want to do for the next couple years is sit in a classroom again,” he said.
After a few years, he realized that engineering wasn’t for him. He began taking classes at night at William Mitchell while working full-time at his engineering job.
“The bulk of the time was doing the law school prep after classes let out at 9:20 p.m. You're also catching up on your studies late or on weekends,” he said.
Even with its difficulties, the delayed entry provided Hemming with some perspective. “Having a little break between the start of my career as an engineer and going to law school gave me pretty good perspective to know what it's going to take to succeed in a career like this. I don't know if I would have been prepared the same way if I wouldn't have had at least a few years in the workforce prior to a career change,” he said.
Hemming moved to law full-time after accepting a summer internship at Briggs. “I've been here ever since,” he said.
Even though law and engineering appear to be vastly different professions on the surface, Hemming thinks there is some overlap, “You're trying to be fairly creative in your approaches to problem solving. I think that's pretty similar between engineering and law. The reasoning and analysis you go through and the engineering analysis you go through can be pretty similar.”
Hemming has built a unique practice that focuses on many business-related aspects: construction litigation, railroads, eminent domain, trust and estate litigation, business litigation.
He is also the chair of the HCBA Eminent Domain Section. He first got involved with the section after attending CLE seminars. His involvement with the section has helped keep him attune to what’s going on in the field.
“It's pretty helpful to know what's going on before there's a published opinion or if somebody's got an interesting new argument. You'll probably hear about it at one of our section meetings. They really keep you plugged in about what's going on in the practice area. I really like that,” he said.
While he may not be building tunnels anymore, building bridges between lawyers is just as rewarding.