Alumni Michael J. Runkle ‘09 and Fanny Cherng ‘09 did not set out to work together originally, but a short period after graduating and sharpening their skills in criminal defense and bankruptcy law respectively, Runkle and Cherng became successful partners and now form part of a thriving practice which also includes personal injury.
Runkle graduated amidst the recession but armed with the experience from numerous law school internships, contacts from TJSL and mentors to guide him, he opened the Seneca Law Group in early 2011. “When I first started out I had $138.00 in business cards and was working from my home. I also had part time jobs waiting tables and bartending on the weekends so that I could make the rent and eat.” Runkle recalled.
Driven to do more than keep afloat, Runkle persistently kept in touch with and broadened his network. In one year his efforts quickly took him from home to an office in downtown San Diego. “I was also able to bring in support staff and my wonderful business partner Fanny Cherng,” said Runkle. “Once Fanny became involved in the business it allowed us to expand our practice areas into Bankruptcy as well. Fanny does work in personal injury and bankruptcy while I handle the personal injury trials and criminal defense. We upgraded to a much nicer and larger office when we decided to move the business to our present location in University Heights shortly thereafter.”
“Fanny and I met as 1L's at TJSL and have been very close since then,” said Runkle. “We studied together in law school and we studied together for the bar exam and we took the bar together.” Unlike Runkle, Cherng took several contract positions before securing full time employment at a bankruptcy firm. “I kind of just fell into the practice of bankruptcy because it was the first full time job I was able to obtain as a licensed lawyer,” she said. “I became interested in personal injury because it’s an area of law where I have the opportunity to always learn something new. Whether it’s complex medical conditions or the mechanics of a car accident, I find myself learning something new in every case.”
“At the same time, Michael Runkle had just hung his own shingle and we strategized that combining my efforts in bankruptcy and his efforts in criminal law would be a good combination to keep the lights on while we both pursued what we really wanted to practice in, personal injury,” said Cherng. “We partnered up and began our efforts in building the firm. The first year was incredibly difficult because we would often find ourselves at the end of the month without enough money to pay our expenses. Fortunately for us, it always seemed to work out and now we are going three years strong and growing every year.”
“The most rewarding part of my job is helping people. It feels wonderful when you can do something that you are good at and literally change people’s lives for the better in the process,” Rankle said.
“The best advice I could give to students who have just become attorneys is to keep pushing forward,” Runkle said. “Be like a sponge and learn as much as you can. Maintain the relationships you have with your class mates because they are going through the same thing and can provide incredible support,” Cherng added.
“Thomas Jefferson School of law is a fantastic Law School,” said Runkle. “The knowledge I obtained there, the people I met and the skills I learned are all priceless assets. My life and my family’s lives are all better because of this wonderful institution. When I think of TJSL I think of great friends, great mentors and a network of people who all give back to make our community and nation a better place to be. If I had to do it all over again, I would not change a thing.”