My parents always said about me: “She is definitely going to be a lawyer!” I suspect negotiating a peace treaty with my siblings or arguing against early bedtimes set me on my judicial path. I’m from a Peruvian-American family; when I discovered international law, I saw it as a combination of many things I love – language, negotiation, travel, and cultures.
As Managing Director & Managing Counsel – International at United Airlines, I have primary legal responsibility for Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and Caribbean operations. I work in English and Spanish, in Houston and the airline’s offices throughout Latin America.
My Latina heritage shapes my whole identity – my family is Peruvian and all my family except my mother lives in Peru. I was raised with one foot in the States and one in Peru. While studying at the University of California Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, I clerked for two law firms in Lima, Peru.
I was a senior associate in the Latin practice at a large firm in Houston, and heard that (then) Continental Airlines needed a Spanish-speaking attorney with international experience in Latin America – it was my dream job!
The airline industry is exciting and global, with employees and customers from around the world who have diverse ideas, experiences and cultures. I work with talented, multi-lingual, bright, resourceful business partners who love the airline business and other cultures and people.
My advice to aspiring young Latina lawyers is: do something extraordinary to distinguish yourself. Master a second (or third!) language. Study abroad. Intern, locally or internationally, for a law firm or legal foundation. Commit to a charitable organization. Make yourself a diverse, adaptable and skilled asset to your future employer and colleagues.
Women, particularly Latinas, may face challenges in professional environments based upon preconceptions. Directness, professionalism and hard work can help overcome such presumptions. Find a mentor. My mentor, the airline’s General Counsel, gave me support and advice and taught me to be a better business partner.
I believe if you are able to help others, improve another’s situation, or lend a hand to someone less privileged, then you do it. I’ve worked with and done fundraising for many causes, including Planned Parenthood and the AIDS Foundation. I’m on the Advisory Board of Latin Women’s Initiative and a charter member of the Houston chapter of the International Women’s Forum. At United, I’m a founding sponsor for the LBGT Business Resource Group EQUAL, and a board member/officer of the United Management Association.
I have been part of United’s tremendous growth and success in Latin America and North America, and I intend to continue to grow along with our airline in the future.
And, even after 15 years in the industry, I still enjoy traveling, whether for business or for fun!
To me, life is like a successful airline flight: whatever your destination, get there on time, safely… and with your luggage!
Jessica Rossman has been Managing Director & Managing Counsel – International at United, with primary legal responsibility for Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and Caribbean operations, since 2001. She received a BA from the University of Texas at Austin in 1991, and her juris doctorate from the University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law in 1994. In 2015, Rossman was named one of Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women by Houston Woman Magazine, and Best Corporate Counsel by Houston Business Journal; elected to the board of Kids’ Meals, the Board of Trustees of New York Academy of Art in New York City, Vice Chairman of the Board of AIDS Foundation Houston; and was founding sponsor for United Airlines’ LBGT Business Resource Group EQUAL; she sits on the Advisory Board of Latin Women’s Initiative, and is Treasurer of United Airlines’ United Management Association.