Warsaw Pact

While growing up in Poland, St. Louis litigator Zofia A. Garlicka pledged to become a lawyer, just like her legendary father

Published in 2010 Missouri & Kansas Rising Stars — November 2010

For Zofia A. Garlicka, a career in law always seemed like the only choice. As a child, she was fascinated by the dinner-table legal talk of her law professor father. “My grandfather was also an attorney, and my dad’s cousin is an attorney, so I grew up with a lot of lawyers around,” she says. “They would always have stories about the changes in Poland—with communism ending and the new democracy coming back in. They always made it look like it was the best profession in the world.”

Later, during law school, she worked as a legal assistant for her dad, Lech. So when she teamed up with him—he’s now a judge on the European Court of Human Rights—to write a chapter of Framing the State in Times of Transition: Case Studies in Constitution Making, it wasn’t much of a stretch.

She did most of the research during her downtime after passing the bar, then handed the manuscript off to Lech, who added his “opinions and editorial comments,” she says.

“My dad has always been very involved with my studies. I’m really glad I got a chance to work with him. It was really fun, because I almost felt like I was his equal—until I saw his edits,” she laughs.

Garlicka was too young to participate in the making of Poland’s Constitution, but she did get to do interesting legal work during that time. While in law school at the University of Warsaw from 1997 to 2000, she worked at the now-defunct Altheimer & Gray. It was one of the first U.S.-based firms to expand to Poland after the fall of communism because of the business opportunities that opened up when the state-owned companies were put on the free market. “When you grow up there, you don’t really know it’s that exciting, but now that I look back at it, it is,” she says. “I’m like, ‘Hey, I worked on the sale of this big entity or that big entity!’ But back then, it was just everyday stuff.”

After being encouraged by the firm to get licensed in the U.S., Garlicka travelled to St. Louis and earned her LL.M. at Saint Louis University. The move to the States wasn’t a difficult transition since her father was a visiting professor at the university, and, in addition to briefly living in the city when she was 3, Garlicka had visited several times during her childhood. She eventually joined Carmody MacDonald in 2007, where she now handles civil litigation and is an associate in the family law group.

Family law appeals to her in part because it lets her stretch her skills. “It involves many other areas of the law,” Garlicka says. “Sometimes you deal with trusts and estate planning or tax issues.”

Although she enjoys visiting her parents in Poland nearly every year, Garlicka has no plans to move back. “In the U.S., our law is mostly based on case law. In Poland, it’s more based on statutes or codes, and case law supplements that,” she says. “I haven’t [lived] there in 10 years now, so I probably don’t have much use for my legal skills there.”

Still, there’s one thing that could easily bring her back to Europe. “If someone offered me my father’s job tomorrow,” she says, “I’d definitely say yes.”

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