Who believed in you and gave you your first chance?

My mother gave birth to me in 1958. Five years later I graduated from kindergarten at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Twelve years later, I graduated from Nazareth Academy, and a few years after that, it was St. John Fisher College, following a fun two year stint at St. Bonaventure. It was 1982, and I was ready to take on the world and my first “real” job hunt.

One potential employer told me that it was not a good time to be job hunting since the nation was in a recession at that time.  I wanted to reply with: “REALLY, did you honestly just say that to me. Can I turn the clock back, and change my arrival into this world, so 23 years later, I can avoid the job hunt during a recession?”

Instead, I sucked up my pride and went to a temp agency, thinking perhaps I would be discovered for a “real job”. This particular agency had an employer that was looking for someone with “good” handwriting. As it turns out, I have pretty good penmanship, and because of that, I was placed with Howard Taylor & Company. My penmanship and other solid skills, quickly earned me a full-time gig at Howard Taylor where I was responsible for packaging commercial loans for resale. It was not the marketing and communications position I was looking for, but the experience was good, and clearly gave me skills to build on.

After a year, I applied to St. Mary’s Hospital for a position as Assistant Director of Public Relations. I was interviewing with Sr. Mary Alice Roach, the new president of the hospital. I remember sitting in the office with this really charismatic woman who was peppering me with questions. I had answers for some, but not all. I could see that Sr. Mary Alice had some concerns about my experience, and lack thereof. I finally said to her, “Sister, I know that I do not have a proven track record yet, but I promise you that I will work harder and try harder than anyone else you may be considering for this position. I will give you 200% of me, and then some, and I promise that I will not disappoint you.”

Sr. Mary Alice Roach

Sr. Mary Alice Roach

I was on a lucky streak and also secured an interview at Crouse Irving Hospital in Syracuse. It was a similar position, but was a much bigger hospital, with a very large marketing and communications staff. I received offers from both hospitals, and turned down Crouse because I would have been one cog in a large wheel doing a specific task. While at St. Mary’s I was one of two cog’s, and I was going to be involved in all aspects of the operation.

It was Sr. Mary Alice Roach that believed in me. She knew that I was young, honest, and inexperienced with loads of energy. “No Sister, I don’t know how to do that, but I will figure it out,” was a frequent response I had to Sister Mary Alice in the early months. She always responded with a reassuring smile, and said, “Mary, you haven’t let me down yet, and I will let you know if you do.” In the years that we worked together, I never heard that I had let her down, until the day I resigned for a new position 5 years later.

Sr. Mary Alice was one of my early believers. Who was one of your first believers? Who gave you your first chance? Do you ever think about them, and what would have happened had that person not come into your life when they did, and not given you your “first chance” even without a book of business?

On my desk, I have a stack of resumes from young attorneys (they accumulate weekly), as well as attorneys in transition. All of them are seeking either their first chance, or perhaps their next opportunity. They went to law school because they wanted to be a lawyer, just like you. For some they entered law school with the understanding that the world has more lawyers than we need, but they believed in the profession and wanted to be part of it  — job market and a $100K in loans aside, just like you.

I know we are still digging our way out of a recession, and we all remain cautious about whether or not we are really in recovery. As I talk to many of you about what you are looking for, I am hearing that many of you want someone with a “book of business”. Well, that would be ideal in an ideal world, but what about giving someone young or in transition, without a “book of business”, a chance to prove to you that they may be the right person to take a chance on. Are they someone that you could try out with some contract work? Give them a chance to show you what they can do?

I wish to take a moment to introduce you to a few members looking for a first or next chance. Everyone included here is with their permission:

Paul DiCola is a UB Law Grad, and currently volunteering with the Monroe County DA’s office. He is interested in criminal law, and would like to work in either the public sector or for a small to medium size firm that has a criminal defense department. Click here to learn more about Paul.

Anthony Orphe earned his JD from UB Law. Anthony is looking for opportunities in finance regulation-compliance as well as commercial litigation. Click here to learn more about Anthony.

Mary Barrow is a trusts & estates lawyer who has just moved to Rochester permanently with her husband, who is originally from here and has a lot of family here. Mary started her career at Chadbourne & Parke in Manhattan, was a partner in a 100-lawyer firm in Hartford CT, and most recently had her own boutique trusts & estates practice in Beaufort, SC.  She is looking for a firm in which to practice here in Rochester.  Mary still has some SC clients and would like to concentrate on building a New York practice. Click here to learn more about Mary.

Ryan Woodworth graduated from Cooley Law School two years ago, and is interested in civil rights law, as well as labor and employment. Click here to learn more about Ryan.

Michael Zoldan went to went to Fordham University School of Law and has gained experience in family law and is currently working at the DA’s office. But ever since law school, Michael’s passion is with litigation work. Depositions, research, and motions are his favorite part of being an attorney. Click here to learn more about Michael.

Janet Horne worked for Akerman Senterfitt. “Akerman Senterfitt took a chance on me, bringing me into the General Counsel’s office as part of the Conflicts Group. I would like to return to Conflicts practice.” Click here to lean more about Janet.

Amy D’Amico received my offer to be included in this blog, and declined with a lovely message:

“In answer to the question you posed (Who gave you your first job?)  my reply is a bit ‘road less traveled by’:  the Monroe County Bar Association itself ENABLED me to get my first job, working for myself.  By making conference rooms available to this solo practitioner, my client base grew from two clients to over 30 in my first six months of practice.  Soon I hope to open my own office in the Rochester area, but this would not be possible without the encouragement and brick and mortar assistance from the MCBA all along the way.  So I feel compelled to say “thanks” in a public way.  At this point I am not job hunting, but am very pleased to accept referrals, particularly in family law practice.”

So, here are 6 attorneys. All are interested in making their mark in the world, and in Monroe County. I encourage you to take a few minutes to learn more about them. And as you do, think back to that one person that called you one day when you weren’t expecting it with the words, “we would like to give you a chance…!” Or in the case of Amy, send her a referral.

Thanks for checking in,


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