When Bindi Pennetta graduated from Hotchkiss High School in 1997, she had thoughts of becoming a teacher but kept signing up for psychology classes because they were so interesting.
It was a post-graduate job with Susan Hillyard, a Delta attorney, that set her on the path to becoming a lawyer. Pennetta was originally hired to help Hillyard set up her law office, but gradually took on more responsibilities until she was acting as a full-time legal assistant. Ten years after obtaining her undergraduate degree from the University of Wyoming, Bindi returned to Laramie to study law.
Although a decade older than most of her classmates, when Bindi graduated three years later she was selected by her peers as the 2016 "Outstanding Law Graduate." The UW College of Law dean called her "one of our most extraordinary candidates" for the juris doctor degree.
Between her first and second year, Bindi took part in an "externship" with Steve Harper, an attorney and longtime acquaintance in Hotchkiss. In addition to picking up college credits, Bindi began forming a professional relationship that solidified after graduation. After passing the bar exam on the first try, she became a full-fledged associate of the one-man law firm.
The beauty of the area, her family, lifelong friends and the small-town atmosphere have always made Hotchkiss appealing; the only concern was whether the North Fork could support another attorney.
A steady work flow -- and the booming real estate market -- have relieved any concerns Bindi might have had about practicing law in a small town.
The law firm handles real estate, estate planning, wills/trusts and works with business owners to set up LLCs and operating agreements.
Bindi feels fortunate to have a mentor like Steve Harper, someone to bounce ideas off. But the conversation doesn't go any further -- confidentiality is a must in any law practice, but especially in a small town where relationships can be closely intertwined.
She loves the connections she still has to her teachers, many of whom she now calls friends, and is a proud Bulldog fan who can be found in the bleachers instead of on the basketball court. The balance of family, friends and work is one that feels right -- and the .3 mile commute to work is the envy of her law school friends who drive an hour one way to get to work.
"Coming back is not necessarily giving back, but I am happy to help out the people of this community if I can," she said.