The Documentary Maker

Hilaree Casada’s five years of making movies gave her invaluable legal skills

Published in 2007 Texas Rising Stars — April 2007

Hilaree Casada has a little Mike Wallace in her. A little Steven Spielberg as well.
 
The 35-year-old associate at Hermes Sargent Bates in Dallas enjoyed success in broadcast journalism on both sides of the camera. She graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1993 with a degree in broadcast journalism and put her skills to use for several years as a producer of training films before heading back to SMU for law school.
 
“I wanted to be the next Jane Pauley,” she says. Upon graduating, she accepted a job at Westcott Communications, a producer of training films for 2,400 fire and EMS clients. Casada enjoyed her work at Westcott because she controlled all aspects of the projects she worked on, from researching and writing scripts, to reporting, directing and editing.
 
One of her assignments was producing a training program for firefighters called American Heat. Each episode featured three segments reviewing real-life emergency calls and how they were handled. In 1996, a year after the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed in Oklahoma City, Casada produced a special episode of American Heat dedicated to that tragedy. She traveled to Oklahoma City and spoke with firefighters and other first-responders about that event.
 
“We had a list of 10 or 12 workers who wanted to talk. We set up and started filming and ended up rolling all night,” she recalls. “They kept coming—firefighters and EMTs. It had been enough time for people to step away and think it through.”
 
By the end of that year, however, Casada knew she wanted to get her law degree, something she had originally planned while still in high school.
 
“I don’t regret those five years before law school and doing what I did. I learned a lot about myself,” she says. And because her law work involves a lot of researching and writing, skills that she honed in her film production career are still valuable today.
 
“The best trial lawyers are those who engage,” she says. “Through filmmaking, I learned how to keep an argument simple and short—how to find the pertinent information and present it in a limited amount of time and space.”

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