Navigating any business through a global pandemic is scary enough.
Building a new business in the midst of the chaos? That can only add more challenges.
But meeting challenges is nothing new to UNLV alumna and attorney Brandi Planet, ’04 BA Communication Studies, ’09 JD, a founding partner at Lex Domus Law.
Whether it’s working full time while attending law school part time or balancing volunteer cases with a busy attorney’s schedule, Planet has spent her career advocating for the interests of her clients while embracing new environments and opportunities.
Now, she’s helping guide people through crucial decisions about their wills and estates while managing the responsibilities of running a law firm, and she’s still finding time to give back to her community.
Change of plans
Planet, who has lived in Las Vegas for more than three decades, didn't always have her heart set on studying law.
Though her dad encouraged her to become a lawyer from practically the time she was born, she sought out a different path, graduating magna cum laude with a communication studies degree from the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs.
After working as a public relations professional for a year, she realized the job simply wasn’t for her.
“I just didn’t find PR challenging enough, and I was looking at different programs,” she said. “I was going to go for my MBA or something else, maybe a higher degree related to communication, and then I remembered that (UNLV) had a law school.”
Planet jokes that she “pulled a "Legally Blonde" with the sudden decision to become an attorney, but the move felt right.
While at the Boyd School of Law, she balanced her full-time public relations job with part-time schooling for the first three years of her four-year program.
It was a struggle to work, maintain a life, and take classes, and it was made harder by the death of her grandmother during her second semester of school.
“I had to leave at 5 p.m. to make it for a 5:30 p.m. class down at UNLV, so that was always stressful. And then I was in class not getting home until 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. There was no time to study as much as I needed to,” she said.
Ultimately, though, she achieved her goal of earning a juris doctorate.
After school, she became the staff attorney with a family court self-help center and later worked with a firm for nearly seven years. In that time, she traveled between two states and managed a high number of clients while dealing with health issues stemming from Lyme disease.
Her career also took her to Carson City to work as a lobbyist before she eventually joined another large firm.
That’s where she was working when she was approached by Lex Domus co-founding partner Daniel Cereghino about the idea of collaborating in a new business.
They met on a Friday in 2020, and on the following Monday, Planet had quit her job.
Working through tough conversations
In her work, she often finds herself using the skills she learned during her undergraduate experience at UNLV.
“My communication degree was very helpful because in PR you learn how to craft messages and you think about ‘What is the impact of this message?’” she said. “It’s definitely helped me be a more effective communicator, a better writer.”
Taking on the tall order of business ownership in the midst of a pandemic, Planet and Cereghino began offering personal and affordable services through their firm.
“It has been nerve-wracking. It has been scary, but generally, it has been the best decision of my life,” she said.
Though Lex Domus Law began as a business litigation firm, it now aids businesses with a number of services to help them avoid or resolve legal issues.
Planet also practices in the field of estate planning, helping clients confront some of the most emotional decisions of their lives with honesty and forethought. She guides them through the process of deciding child custody in case of emergencies and allocation of financial resources.
Such clear, formalized decisions can help protect families from confusing legal battles and predators who target the grieving, she said.
The work for Planet is not just about leaving behind a binder of documents. The process requires a steady hand to assist clients as they confront difficult family dynamics and make clear-headed choices.
“I take out as much of the unknown about death as I possibly can,” she said. “I try to present estate planning as, ‘It is a gift to your family.’ It lets them focus on grieving you rather than fighting about what you want,” she said.
Helping families become families
When she’s not running a business, she volunteers with the Children’s Attorneys Project (CAP) at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, advocating for the best interests of children in the court system.
The cases are time-consuming and can be emotional, but Planet exemplifies what it means to be a great CAP attorney, said Deena Lakes, an adoptive mother of two children represented by Planet.
Lakes and her husband, Matthew, said they feel lucky that the children were paired with someone who goes above and beyond in her work.
“Brandi was very active from the very beginning. She would text, she would email, she would do all of these things to really get to know the child," Deena Lakes said. “She’s been that person for us that just really cared.”
The Lakes and Planet got to know each other when the couple decided to pursue adoption of their daughter, who was abandoned at birth. About a month before the adoption was finalized, their daughter’s birth mother had a boy, whom they also adopted after he, too, was abandoned.
Planet handled both cases with kindness and care, Lakes said. She was even present for a virtual adoption event for the Lakes’ son, despite having to deal with a family emergency.
“We could just tell with the relationship we developed during my daughter’s case that she was going to be a permanent part of our life,” Deena Lakes said.
The family and Planet keep in touch still, not just about the adoption, but about the kids’ lives and their hobbies.
“Providing pro-bono service is one of the only ways I can give back,” Planet said. “It is a beautiful thing. These children are getting another shot at life and love.”
Tools for success
Planet insists that her accomplishments are the result not just of her own hard work but of the support and influences she had along the way.
“Obviously, I can pretty much credit UNLV with all of my success,” she said. “They definitely gave me the education and the foundation I needed to be successful.”
That success is also the result of believing in herself. She advises students to have self-confidence and to invest in themselves.
“You will get through it. Have a support system, learn how to study,” she said. “You have to prioritize, you have to organize, you have to be focused.”
She also suggests aspiring or early-career lawyers surround themselves with a group of friends who know what it’s like to be in the same position so that they can uplift each other.
Find mentors and try to identify experienced individuals in your profession whose work epitomizes what you’d like to learn, then take those traits and make them your own, she said.
And don’t be scared to take on new challenges or to strike out on a different path.
“There’s nothing wrong if you go through something and find it's not for you,” Planet said. “Find something that you are passionate about. Money and passion don't have to be mutually exclusive, but find your own happiness.”