Anna Romanskaya ‘07 Becomes Chair of ABA Young Lawyers Division
May 12, 2016
One would think that Anna Romanskaya, who this coming August will be sworn in as Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyers Division and currently serving her first term as a board member of the San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA), not to mention her other accolades like serving as President of the New Lawyers Division (NLD) for the SDCBA in 2010, being named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers and San Diego Business Journal’s Best of the Bar in 2015 and 2016, named Partner at Stark & D’Ambrosio, LLP in 2014, Top 10 Attorney under the age of 40 by the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys, Inc. in 2014, recognized as one of the Best Lawyers in San Diego in 2012 by the San Diego Metro Magazine and awarded the SDCBA’s distinguished Service Award for her contribution to legal education in 2010, was the perfect student who breezed through the law school with little or no difficulty and immediately landed her dream job after graduating and passing the Bar.
Romanskaya got to where she is now through hard work, determination and perseverance. Her passion for public interest law has allowed her to overcome her early difficulties in law school. Anna Romanskaya’s journey into the legal profession began with a question that many of us have been asked when we were children:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
For many of us, this familiar phrase may induce nostalgic feelings of childhood ambition and wonderment; however, this was not the case for Anna Romanskaya who was not sure what she wanted to do as a career even after graduating from University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree double majoring in political science and law and society . Her initial motivation to attend law school afterwards was not because she wanted to be a lawyer, but for other reasons.
“My decision to attend law school was more practical than any serious desire to practice law. I went to law school directly after college because I didn’t know ‘what I wanted to be when I grow up’ and law school seemed like a more practical decision than graduate school – because ‘you can do anything with a law degree.’”
Law school however, was no cakewalk and it was difficult for Romanskaya in her first year.
“My first year in law school was extremely challenging, both personally and academically,” recalled Romanskaya. “I struggled with the classes because I didn’t feel connected to any of the materials and I came out of my first semester on academic probation and just barely squeezed by the GPA cut off after my first year.”
Despite struggling in her first year, Anna Romanskaya found her purpose and calling through one of the many law student organizations one could join while attending Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
“My ultimate motivation in school came when I joined the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) toward the end of my first year,” said Romanskaya. “PILF at that time had about 5 active members, and I believe 4 of them were graduating that year. I was asked to step in as president of the organization and, in retrospect, that responsibility gave me the purpose I was searching for to stick it out in school.”
PILF allowed Anna Romanskaya to grow in her legal studies and create lasting networks.
“My involvement and leadership with PILF offered me the opportunity to meet professionals in the legal community who continue to be my mentors today,” said Romanskaya. “That experience also taught me the board structure and how to lead a team. I was able to transfer and grow those skills within the SDBCA and Lawyers Club.”
As she progressed through law school, her background in nonprofit crisis intervention and victim advocacy led her to family law.
“Before law school, I worked in the crisis intervention and victim advocacy arena. I knew I wanted to focus my work on advocacy and during my tenure in law school, the only subject area that interested me was family law,” said Romanskaya. “Starting with the summer after my 1L year, I worked at a nonprofit, where I assisted victims of domestic violence in preparing and filing restraining orders. In my 2L year, I was fortunate to get a law clerk position at a family law firm where I was able to learn the ins and outs of the family law practice. Toward the end of my law school tenure, I knew that family law was the only area of law I had any interest in practicing and focused building my career in that field. “
After graduating law school and taking the Bar, she felt it was smooth sailing for there on out. Unfortunately, the economy became sour and she found herself without a job.
“I went into the July 2007 bar exam feeling secure in my law clerk position at the family law firm I had worked in since my 2L year and confident that I would be able to continue working there after the exam,” recalled Romanskaya. “As fate would have it, I took the bar exam, went on a two-week European vacation, and came back to learn that that law firm had undergone a restructure due to the economic downturn and I was one of the layoffs. Consequently, I found myself in the very disheartening position of waiting for bar results and looking for a job.”
Disappointed but not discouraged, she used her time wisely by becoming more active in legal professional associations and observing how law was practiced.
“During those four months, I became more actively involved in the SDBCA and Lawyers Club, and reached out to (literally) every member of the Family Law Section,” said Romanskaya. “ My days were filled with coffee and lunch meetings and attending court hearing to observe practicing attorneys in action. I was able to get some contract work from several attorneys and shadow them in their cases. Thankfully, I passed the bar and was sworn in that December 2007.”
Her big break came with a job ad posted in Craigslist from a local law firm looking for a family law attorney.
“Ultimately, I found my firm, Stark & D’Ambrosio, LLP through an ad on Craigslist,” said Romanskaya. “They had advertised for a family law attorney with 3-5 years of experience to take on their family law caseload after another associate left. I was about two weeks after being sworn into the bar and thought I was the perfect fit. Fortunately, they agreed and I have been with them since.”
Reflecting on her time at law school and how she ended up in the legal profession, Anna Romanskaya valued the education and relationship-building offered at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
“It is hard to believe that when I started my journey into the legal profession at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, I felt lost and without purpose, and barely met the requirements to remain in the program, let alone graduate,” recalled Romanskaya. “I attribute my ability to succeed to the opportunities made available through the relationships formed at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and in the San Diego community. I left Thomas Jefferson School of Law with not just the skill of ‘thinking like a lawyer’ and understanding how to decipher a case, but with a sense of confidence in myself as a member of the legal community with a strong voice and support system behind me. I stay involved with Thomas Jefferson School of Law to give back and to encourage the current students the way I was encouraged during my tenure to become involved, make connections, and not get discouraged. I feel connected with Thomas Jefferson School of Law and proud to be a part of the alumni. I believe Thomas Jefferson School of Law grads are a powerful force to be reckoned with and it’s because we continue support each other, during school and in the profession.”
When giving advice to Thomas Jefferson School of Law students and recent graduates, Romanskaya gives some great insight on the tight job market for new lawyers and how to distinguish oneself from the rest.
“First and foremost, don’t get discouraged if you do not have a job lined up,” said Romanskaya. “There are opportunities out there, but you have to be strategic about how you approach your search. Take the time to identify what your personal distinguishing factor is – what sets you apart from everyone else. And then, learn to articulate it.”
The essence of practicing law, Anna Romanskaya concludes, is knowledge of how to market oneself and active engagement in professional associations.
“The secret to the practice of law is that it is, in a lot of ways, a marketing exercise,” said Romanskaya. “You have to become comfortable ‘selling’ your position, whether it’s in a job search context, or in advocating for a client’s position. And, at the end of the day, your reputation is your most valuable asset. Creating professional (and strategic) relationships is a must. I would also strongly encourage participating (not just joining, but engaging) in trade associations – such as the SDCBA and the ABA – which allow you the opportunity to build a sense of security and trust. It is also critical to understand emerging (and diminishing!) trends – both in the global society and in the legal profession. Engagement in legal associations provides access to the up and coming issues facing the profession and offers the ability to stay on the forefront of the ever changing world.”