In today’s #meettheteam Monday, read all about Andrea and her work as an attorney in the Children’s Law Center. Learn about her lifelong pursuit of victim advocacy, social justice, and her long-term dream of owning a North Shore Farm!
“I quickly learned that through work in family law I could help children and families during some of the most difficult times of their lives“
1. Why did you choose Family Law?
My past experience included a lot of victim advocacy and social work: working with immigrant sex trafficked and labor trafficked victims and case management for individuals with severe and persistent mental illness. I’ve also worked with sex and drug offenders through HOPE Probation and juveniles caught in the criminal justice system.
In law school, I focused on international human rights and the impact of trauma on victims. I dedicated my research primarily to the right to rehabilitation for victims of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes within the context of international humanitarian law. I also focused extensively on rape as a crime of genocide.
Following my second year of law school, I was fortunate to be awarded a fellowship to pursue human rights work. I was so incredibly fortunate to be placed at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. I loved every minute of my time at the UN and though I would work in international human rights as a victim advocate for the rest of my life. Just before leaving Europe to finish my last year of law school, I learned that Christine Evans, the author who is ultimately responsible for my thesis inspiration, worked in the same building at the UN.
I knocked on her door and we had coffee overlooking Lake Geneva. It was the dream of a lifetime and everything that I thought I wanted. She surprised me with her honesty about her life’s work and how hard it was to have a family life. She asked me if I had kids and told me that she remembered sitting in my shoes thinking about the endless possibilities. I remember it so clearly that I can still taste the latte. The fact was, I did not have kids and while I loved my research and work, my work involved subjecting myself to unbelievable amounts of violence. I wanted a family and I missed my home in Hawaii. I will never forget that conversation. It changed my life.
Coming to Hawaii to find Family Law and the CLC
When I came back from Europe for my final year of law school, I sought out opportunities to work with victims and have a positive impact on my community at home. I dove head first into family law. I took classes in family law and family mediation and volunteered to write court orders for pro se parties at Family Court. I quickly learned that through work in family law I could help children and families during some of the most difficult times of their lives. It was tangible, it didn’t give me nightmares like my work in human rights, and I could make a difference in Hawaii. I loved all of it. My roommate had been working at CLC, and she told me to check it out. I started there as a paralegal in 2016, and since passing the Hawaii bar exam in 2018 I’ve been an attorney. I honestly believe I will be a family law attorney for life!
What’s Important to Andrea’s Work
It’s deeply important to me to help people protect their physical and mental health from the stress that this process can create. Divorce can take a toll and I want to help my clients process that, to be there and support them. To me, supporting my clients means to be their strength when they cannot find it within themselves and to help them build upon their own strength. To often I have witnessed victims suffer great amounts of shame. I want to help my clients understand that we all have our battles and that there is no shame in what they have experienced. Instead, I hope to empower my clients to acknowledge the immense strength of being a survivor!
“We zealously advocate for our clients, but only within the scope of the best interest of their children”
2. Why choose the Children’s Law Center?
I am very proud to work at an all female firm surrounded by incredible, brilliant women who build each other up. We work as a team. We are not afraid to argue with one another to test the strengths and weakness in our cases. By the time we get to Court, we are ready for anything! We’re a unique firm.
In our retainer it states that if we believe you are doing something that’s not in the best interest of the child (or children) then we will withdraw as counsel. I don’t believe that you see that in other retainers. It speaks to the level of commitment, from the very beginning, we have to children’s best interest advocacy we have at CLC. We zealously advocate for our clients, but only within the scope of the best interest of their children.
“Foxxy Lady and I like to run together.“
3. Hobbies and Interests?
I run and spend time with my family, which includes two fur babies: Foxxy Lady (yes, double x) and Chili Bean Pie, who is a Yorkshire Terrier. Foxxy Lady and I like to run together. Our standard route is 6 miles and she makes me feel slow the entire way! Lol. I also go to the beach, read, and make jewelry. I recently started following a keto diet for my health, so I’m becoming a pretty good cook as well!
“If you’re not healthy, you can’t do anything.”
4. How do you maintain or create work-life balance?
I am a proud Type 1 Diabetic so my health is a huge part of my life. That means I am pretty much down for anything physically active but my favorite thing to do is run. I also love to be home with my family. I have an incredibly supportive husband who helps to keep me balanced and healthy. A solid cuddle session with my fur babies will cure just about anything.
I’m one of those people who will work as much as I can and then a little more. But I also know it’s like on the airplanes—you have to put your mask on before you can put on someone else’s. For me, my health is the signal of when I’m becoming unbalanced. The minute my body starts sending my signs it needs a break, I’ll stop.
If you’re not healthy, you can’t do anything. I see the emotional and physical toll that stress takes, which is why it’s important for me to keep an eye on it for myself, and to remind my clients the value that self-care can offer them—I can’t reiterate enough how important it is to take care of your mental and physical health. Especially during this difficult process.
“I would like to earn a reputation in which I am equally feared and respected; feared by opposing counsel because I am so well prepared but also equally respected for always operating in good faith“
5. What are your goals for the firm and in general?
The CLC is settlement focused but I must admit that I truly love litigation. Not much feels better than fighting a good fight for a good person, knowing the law, making a strong argument and winning! That is hard to beat. I want to learn as much as I can about case law. Being knowledgable of case law and legal precedents is very valuable. In my free time I’ll read case law, because that’s going to help me be the best attorney I can be. I would like to earn a reputation in which I am equally feared and respected; feared by opposing counsel because I am so well prepared but also equally respected for always operating in good faith.
My 10-15 year plan is to have a farm on the North Shore with my husband and TONS of animals: pigs, goats, dogs, chickens, all kinds of animals, and of course children. My other overall goal is achieving optimal health, in my own definition, which to me would be the ultimate sign I’ve achieved work-life balance.
“I love law, but it can be so intense that going back into the restaurant, where families are happy and celebrating together, puts what is important in life into perspective.“
6. Fun fact about you?
I was a waitress for 19 years, and I still pick up a shift at Morton’s Steakhouse every once in a while. I love law, but it can be so intense that going back into the restaurant, where families are happy and celebrating together, puts what is important in life into perspective. The Morton’s crew has been family to me since the beginning of law school. They stood by my side through all the ups and downs of school, the bar exam and now lawyer life. My husband and my sister also work at Morton’s so it’s literally and figuratively a family affair.
Also I am trying desperately to learn Portuguese, mostly when I drive which means I talk to myself every day in the car. My husband is from Brazil and I want to speak Portuguese with our children when we have them. I used to speak Spanish but when I started learning Portuguese I started to forget the Spanish. My husband says I now speak Portuñol – a blend of Portuguese and Spanish. Honestly, I don’t know the difference between them now. I confuse myself for sure!
“The only true failure is failing to try“
7. Favorite Saying?
“You’ll never know if you can fly unless you jump.”
We have to dive into things to see how high we can fly and how successful we can be. We may not fly, we might totally fail, but at least we made that leap and did our best and committed 110%. The only true failure is failing to try.
And, it’s so generic, but I really do believe that “Everything happens for a reason.”
“I’m following the restrictions and cherishing this time at home“
8. How are you staying positive during Shelter-in-Place orders?
For endorphins I have home work-out videos, and of course I have the flexibility to keep working with CLC. My keto desserts are getting pretty good too.
I feel incredibly lucky to be at home safe with my family. My dogs snuggle and cuddle me all day long while I work. When this Shelter-in-Place Order is over the firm might have two new team members at the office! I’m following the restrictions and cherishing this time at home. I’m also doing all those random things I don’t normally have time for, like cleaning my jewelry and gardening.
Knowing how difficult some lives can be, during this pandemic and independent of it, I focus wholeheartedly on gratitude and remembering how lucky I am.