Ms. Hillegas began her career in the field of law over 30 years ago as a paralegal for a civil litigation firm in San Francisco. Working her way through law school, she received a law degree from the University of San Francisco’s School of Law in 1992, graduating in the top 15% of her class. During her last year of law school she clerked for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. She has been an active member of the California Bar since 1992.
Early in her law career, Ms. Hillegas was a litigation attorney in the Toxic Torts division of the Oakland firm of Hardin, Cook, Loper, Engel and Bergez where she represented petrochemical companies and other corporate clients in a wide range of matters, including complex municipal water contamination cases, product liability primarily associated with agricultural chemicals, and a variety of personal injury lawsuits in state and federal court. She also appeared as co-counsel for respondent at oral argument in the United States Supreme Court case, FDIC v. Meyer (1994) 510 U.S. 471 [Right to due process in termination of property interest under Federal Tort Claims Act.] and was lead defense counsel in the underlying case of Wedeck v. Union Oil Company of California (Unocal) (1997) 59 Cal. App. 4th 848, which upheld summary judgment for her client. [Special employment status as bar to tort action.]
After moving to Mendocino County in 1998 to raise her two children in a rural environment, Ms. Hillegas accepted a position with the Law Offices of Thomas F. Johnson in Ukiah, where she worked on a myriad of general civil litigation matters and represented many local grape growers in acquiring and preserving water rights.
In 2001, she began working as a staff attorney with the Ukiah legal aid office of Legal Services of Northern California (formerly Redwood Legal Assistance) where she remained for ten years, and was the supervising and then managing attorney for the firm during the last six years of her tenure. At legal aid, Ms. Hillegas worked primarily as a housing rights advocate for low income families, including landlord/tenant issues and was the lead attorney for multiple successful lawsuits filed against the County of Mendocino to enforce affordable housing laws. She also engaged in administrative and legislative advocacy for the adoption of local housing policies promoting affordable housing and took a leadership role advocating for a mobilehome park rent stabilization ordinance in Ukiah, which was enacted in 2011.
Ms. Hillegas left legal aid to follow her interest in affordable housing advocacy at the provider level, accepting the position of Director of the Property Management Division at the corporate office of Rural Communities Development Corporation (RCHDC), a Ukiah based non-profit affordable housing developer. At RCHDC, she directly managed a staff of eight and was responsible for overseeing the management of RCHDC’s entire portfolio of 1,100+ units of affordable rental housing, including all aspects of compliance with the multiple federal and state subsidy program funding.
In 2013, Ms. Hillegas established a solo law practice providing high quality legal services at affordable prices to clients in the areas of family and general civil law. To this practice she brings the breadth of her legal experience, a vast array of communication and advocacy skills and a commitment to helping her clients efficiently navigate the maze of our legal system to a satisfying resolution.
Ms. Hillegas completed the Interdisciplinary Collaborative Law Training sponsored by the Sacramento Collaborative Practice Group in 2014 and a 30-hour intensive mediation training in 2008 from Gary Friedman of the Center for Understanding Conflict, a nationally recognized leader in legal mediation. Ms. Hillegas focuses her ongoing continuing legal education on family law issues and is pursuing a California Family Law Specialist certification. Ms. Hillegas is licensed to practice law in California and admitted to the Northern District of California and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Collaborative Professionals of Mendocino and Lake Counties, the Mendocino County Bar Association, the Mendocino Family Bar Association, the Mendocino County Women’s Bar Association, the Sonoma County Bar Association and an Intern with the Human Awareness Institute (HAI).