We are so proud to feature alumna Julia Vlahos, who graduated from CSUB in 2008 with a B.A. in Economics with an emphasis on pre-law AND a B.A. in Communications. She went on to graduate from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law with distinction and an emphasis on trial advocacy in 2012. She was admitted to the California Bar the same year. Julia now works as an Attorney at Law with Klein-DeNatale-Goldner and her areas of practice are personal injury, wrongful death, and business & civil litigation.
How did your experiences at CSUB help you find your first position after graduation?
Everything I did at CSUB paved the way to where I am today. I had known for a long time that I wanted to become an attorney and picked my majors accordingly. I received two degrees at CSUB: a BA in Economics with an emphasis in pre-law, as well as a BA in Communications. Economics is a great field of study for potential law students; in fact, there is an entire school of legal thought that deals with law and economics exclusively. While at CSUB I worked for the Judicial Affairs office, which essentially dealt with student discipline related to various issues ranging from plagiarism to assault, etc. While at CSUB, I began working as a file clerk for Klein, DeNatale, Goldner. From there I went on to become a legal secretary and was able to continue expanding my educational and work background. After I graduated, I took a year off to work at Klein, DeNatale, Goldner full time. Then I went to law school and returned to Bakersfield every summer to work as a summer associate. CSUB provided me with a great educational foundation to succeed in law school in that it offered various courses related to the law, that allowed me to get a glimpse into what law school was going to be like. The classes were rigorous and challenging, which is good preparation for the law school environment.
What career advice would you give our students?
I don’t think there is one thing that universally applies to everyone. I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you that the one thing that had always worked for me is discipline. I believe in setting goals and then working hard to achieve them, come hell or high water. My mother always says I am good at “punishing” myself, i.e. I will work hard to achieve my goals and be successful. Don’t be afraid to fail; reach for the stars and work hard! I am not a person to whom things come easily, but I am not afraid of a challenge. When people tell me I can’t do something, I tell them: watch me! So, set a goal, then go and achieve it.
How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today? Was there a pivotal moment?
I don’t have a great “personal impact” story or something really inspirational. I was 11-years old when I read John Grisham and decided I wanted to be a lawyer. This is funny because I once read that when you write your personal essay for your law school application, don’t put in that you 1) like to argue, or 2) read John Grisham. But I did read John Grisham, and that did make me want to become a lawyer. So here I am. But to be fair, when I was a legal secretary I worked in the personal injury department—I still do, only I am an attorney now—and I truly did and do enjoy helping people who have been injured.
What do you attribute your success to?
The endless support of my family and my own determination are essential to everything I do. I was married by the time I entered law school. My husband stayed behind to work and support me while I attended law school for three years in Sacramento. He is such a rock and my absolute backbone. I am a go-getter, but even go-getters need the emotional and financial support of their loved ones.
How do you foster creative and innovative thinking within your organization?
I think a lot of people see lawyers as these boring people who aren’t particularly creative, but you’d be surprised. Lawyers constantly are asked to think outside the box, interpret the law, come up with interesting arguments to make their client’s case. No case is ever the same and one has to constantly shift gears.
What are the most important decisions that you face daily as a leader in your organization?
As a lawyer I am always required to make important decisions; no decision I make on a case is ever inconsequential. Everything I do has consequences, and my decisions affect not only me or some theoretical case, but real people who were injured or who have lost a family member. It is a lot of pressure, but it is also tremendously satisfying to reach a great outcome for a client. It begins with which clients to take on and which cases to reject and doesn’t end until a case has settled or we have a verdict.
What have you accomplished or overcame in the past that you thought was impossible at the time?
I would say, like everyone, I have faced my share of trials and tribulations, but what has probably most impacted me was when my husband became very ill while I was in law school. He ended up having to have two brain surgeries immediately after I took the bar exam, so that was a stressful time. It was hard being away from him—knowing he needed me—while continuing to do well in law school and then take and pass the toughest bar exam in the nation, only to come home and spend three weeks in the neuro ICU with my husband. It was a crazy time, but here we are, happy and healthy.
Who is a person that you considered as a role model early in your life?
Britney Spears. Just kidding… not really. I was a HUGE Britney fan in my teens. I don’t think I really had a role model, but my mother was very influential in my choices, and I still see so much of her in myself. Sometimes that’s good, other times not so much. She is a very, very strong woman and I get my discipline from her.
Which accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am proud of all my accomplishments. I mean, I have an amazing husband, two perfect children, and an immensely fulfilling career. I am a very, very lucky person.
Where do you expect to be in five years both personally and professionally?
Right here, at my desk, working away and going home in the evenings to be with my family.