Homage to Sarchio
The granddaughter of a Francisco Franco political prisoner, Christina Guerola Sarchio grew up to prosecute her FORMER neighborhood bully
Published in 2015 Washington DC Super Lawyers magazine
on April 21, 2015
Updated on April 30, 2015
Christina Guerola Sarchio first stepped into a courtroom at the age of 8 to watch her father become naturalized as a U.S. citizen. It was a significant moment—for her, and her family.
It wasn’t an easy path for the Sarchio family from their native Spain to America. Her grandfather was a political prisoner in Spain under Francisco Franco. Once he got out, his daughter, Sarchio’s mother, found that there were few opportunities after the Civil War—particularly for those opposed to Franco. So she and her husband fled first to England, then to the United States.
“We believed in the American dream,” says Sarchio, who was born in New York City in 1969 and grew up in a household where justice was a common topic of conversation around the dinner table. “In the U.S., if you work hard and study hard, you will be rewarded.”
Today, she’s living that dream as partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, where she concentrates her practice on general business litigation, antitrust and white-collar criminal defense matters for Fortune 500 companies and other clients.
She started out as a prosecutor in Manhattan, where she thrived in a melting pot of lawyers, judges and law enforcement officers. She even prosecuted the neighborhood bully from her childhood, who went from picking on kids to becoming a lookout-guy for burglars.
“That gave me a feeling of doing something good for my community,” she says.
After a move to D.C., Sarchio saw the opportunity to move into the private sector.
“I decided to give it a try,” she says. “The ability to work on complex cases while having good resources at your disposal to build a strong case greatly appealed to me; and my having had extensive trial experience greatly appealed to law firms.”
Sarchio, who had no connections to the law until she graduated law school, forged her own path. That experience inspired a commitment to advocate for others coming up through the ranks, particularly minority lawyers. Sarchio’s mission statement resulted in her former roles as president of the Hispanic Bar Association of Washington, D.C., and vice president for external affairs and general counsel for the Hispanic National Bar Association.
Her work with the HNBA brought her in contact with Greg Kenney, who manages domestic litigation for ExxonMobil.
“We wanted to meet more Hispanic lawyers that we could retain,” he recalls. “Her leadership in helping us to meet that goal was what first caught my eye.”
Kenney gave Sarchio a small case, in which a motorist sued the company over car repairs at an Exxon station with a service center. She got the case dismissed.
Over the next 10 years, he sent larger and more complex cases her way, including sophisticated antitrust work.
“She is an incredibly talented lawyer, and we were impressed with her from the beginning,” he says. “She is efficient and innovative. She also is very determined, which never hurts.”
Sarchio differentiates herself by practicing proactive and reactive law. She is a strategic partner with her clients on both legal and business advice.
She represented the National Basketball Players Association, managing the union’s plan to terminate its executive director. She also put together a game plan for an interim director, ensuring players’ concerns would be met.
“It isn’t enough to resolve an immediate problem,” she says. “The goal is to prevent problems in the future.”
When the union began its selection process to hire a new executive director, Sarchio worked closely with the committee. In the end, D.C. trial lawyer Michele Roberts landed the job, making her the first woman to run a major U.S. professional sports union. Roberts’ appointment was a point of pride for Sarchio. “Michele was someone I recommended,” Sarchio says. “I was very pleased that the best qualified candidate for the position happened to be a minority woman.”
Sarchio also does pro bono work for the Women’s National Basketball Association—“They don’t have the money the men have,” she says—and has taken on several discrimination suits involving the rights of immigrants.
The sought-after speaker on such topics as women as rainmakers, class action strategies and managing a career your way is happy to lend a hand to help her peers rise, even though, she notes, others weren’t always so welcoming.
“There will be roadblocks along the way, people who don’t want to see you succeed, but I tell you it’s worth it,” she says. “Twenty years ago, I never imagined being where I am today.”