After graduating from law school in Boston during the Great Recession, Jessica Dornelas returned to her native Connecticut, where she set up a solo practice.
“I started this at first thinking, ‘I’ll do this while I’m looking for a job,’ and then I really ended up getting involved and liking it,” Dornelas said.
She specializes in real estate law and immigration cases, putting her multilingual skills to use helping clients apply for mortgages and purchase homes, obtain work permits and gain citizenship.
“Most of my clients were first-time homebuyers and a lot were immigrants, so it is exciting to help them realize the American dream,” said Dornelas, 28, who estimates 70 percent of her cases are tied to real estate issues.
Dornelas grew up in a Portuguese household in Farmington. As an undergraduate at Fairfield University, she spent a semester studying abroad in Brazil, and she is fluent in Spanish. At her law office in Wethersfield, her language skills bring her frequent referrals as a closing lawyer from banks throughout Greater Hartford.
Before attending law school, Dornelas worked with her aunt at the Golden Rule Realty office in West Hartford as a Realtor and loan officer.
Admitted to practice law in Connecticut and Massachusetts, Dornelas is on Hartford-area lenders’ short list as a sought-after attorney for closings and mortgage refinancings.
“We receive many compliments from different banks. They said she was very accurate, very timely and all of the clients give positive recommendations,” said her aunt, Celeste Bouffard, a mortgage loan officer at West Hartford-based Homeownership Solutions LLC.
Since the housing downturn, many of her clients’ transactions have been short sales, which are more complicated and require more paperwork than standard home purchase.
“The clients appreciate being told the things in their language,” she said. “They’re purchasing something that’s a lot of money and I still have a lot of first-time homebuyers.”
Dornelas is a frequent guest speaker at industry events and classes around the state focusing on credit and homebuying topics.
“I like to be focused on things that people need. At the same time, you have to be fluid, because the economy changes and the cases you get change,” she said. “I like to go with the times and learn new things.”