Check out my quick chat with president of the Federal Bar Association Maria Z. Vathis as she shares her success story, what she loves most about what she does, and advice for those interested in pursuing law – especially women.
Kira Ming: When did you first realize you wanted to practice law?
Maria: I knew that law was a strong possibility for me from a very young age. After school, rather than watch cartoons, I used to watch the television show ‘People’s Court’ with my grandfather, and I was always interested in the law and captivated by the show. I always enjoyed giving speeches and writing, and so the legal profession was a good fit.
Kira Ming: Who were some of your influences growing up? Is there anyone who you would say had an impact on the woman you are today?
Maria: I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by a loving family and good friends. My mother is the person who molded me into the woman that I am today. She was an executive at Sears at a time when it was difficult for women to achieve those positions. She is a strong role model and was always supportive. I am also going to mention my grandparents again, who both immigrated to the United States from Greece. My grandfather used to tell me that anything is possible, and my grandmother taught me to focus on the things that really matter in life. She always had loyal friends and was making new friends into her mid 90’s. Other than spending time with friends and family, my favorite way to decompress is to cook and bake, and that is definitely my grandmother’s influence.
Kira Ming: For those just being introduced to you, what kind of law do you practice, and what made you choose that path?
Maria: My practice is mainly commercial litigation, class action defense, and fashion law. I also provide business advice to clients on contracts, insurance, and statutory compliance. My practice has evolved over time.
Kira Ming: What’s your favorite part of being a lawyer? Your least favorite part?
Maria: My favorite part of being a lawyer is being a strong advocate for my clients and being part of a profession that allows me to help people. My least favorite part is knowing that there are many people out there that need assistance, but not having enough time to devote to pro bono work.
Kira Ming: What has been the most memorable or rewarding part of your career so far?
Maria: This is a difficult question, because there have been many rewarding aspects to my career. It has been an incredible honor to be only the tenth female president of the Federal Bar Association in the 100 years that the organization has existed as well as tied for one of the youngest. I am honored and proud to lead such a distinguished group of attorneys and judges from around the United States and its territories.
Kira Ming: What advice would you give to upcoming lawyers or those who may be interested in pursuing law but aren’t quite sure – especially women?
Maria: Study hard, and try to work in a law firm or legal government office to gain exposure to the practice. I was fortunate to work in a law firm during my breaks from college, and it solidified my decision to attend law school. Once you are in law school, the grades from the first year are important and will often lead to your first job. And, as a female national bar association leader, I will add a special message for women. We currently have three women on the United States Supreme Court, female chief judges, female judges at every level, female clerks of court, female partners in top law firms, and female GCs and CEOs. This means that doors are open, so walk through them!
Kira Ming: As the National President of the Federal Bar Association I’m sure you have quite a bit of responsibility already, but what’s next for you? Is there anything else you’re working on?
Maria: It’s my personality to always be working on something! To answer this question, I am going to share a quote from ancient Greek philosopher Plato, which is that “Life must be lived as play.” This quote has helped me choose my path, including my decision to lead a bar association. I am really enjoying my time as national President of the Federal Bar Association. It has been a rewarding experience that I will always cherish. I expect my future path to lead to great things.
Want to know more about Maria and the Federal Bar Association?
Main Website: www.fedbar.org
Federal Bar Page for Maria Vathis: www.fedbar.org/Leadership/Board-of-Directors/Officers/Maria-Z-Vathis.aspx
Maria’s Page on Bryan Cave’s Website: www.bryancave.com/en/people/maria-z-vathis.html
FBA National Outreach Initiatives: http://www.fedbar.org/Outreach.aspx