Meet Anna Bednarczyk
Anna “Ania” Bednarczyk practices family law exclusively and is committed to helping clients through all aspects of divorce at Whiting, Fallon, Ross & Abel, LLP. She focuses on issues related to complex child custody and visitation litigation, grandparents’ rights, establishment and modification of child support and spousal support orders, property division, and negotiation and drafting of premarital agreements, postnuptial agreement and settlement agreements.
Anna is the recipient of the ACBA’s Distinguished Service Award for Lawyer. She is an active member of the ACBA Family Law Section, a mentor for new attorneys, and the Chair of the ACBA’s Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) Governing Committee. Anna consistently and frequently seeks opportunities to be a voice for the underserved, and she inspires honesty, integrity, civility, and professional excellence and engagement among her peers. Join us on January 26th to honor Anna Bednarczyk at our annual Installation and Distinguished Service Awards Dinner.
When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?
I did not know I wanted to be a lawyer until I actually became a lawyer. I loved the academic and intellectual aspect of law school, but I worried that I may not have the right temperament to survive in the courtroom. It turned out that courtroom litigation is my favorite part of being a lawyer: it is often unpredictable, it requires focus and the ability to articulate your arguments. It also involves some element of presentation and performance and humility. I’ve observed the sharpest litigators being the most respectful and courteous folks in the courtroom. Being a good litigator is really about being the best and most credible teacher in the room. The art of persuasion is presenting your case in a way that hopefully helps your audience forget you are hired to present a particular side of the story.
If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what would you be doing instead?
I would have become a therapist or social worker. In the family law context, our clients are often entering the most difficult and emotional times of their lives. I am fortunate to be able to help them through the legal process, which usually involves providing clients with some degree of emotional support as well. I really do have a dream job. I would be miserable if I were not doing family law.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were first admitted to practice?
Work only with the best and most ethical attorneys. Let your young professional development be crafted by the hands of skilled and reputable attorneys. If you can’t find a job at a reputable law firm, volunteer at the court – meet the judges and attorneys there. Forge your own connections. I had the privilege and honor of being trained by the most talented and ethical lawyers from the moment I entered law school, and it makes the rocky road of learning to be a good lawyer so much easier if you start off the journey with the help of great pilots.
What is the biggest challenge facing you as a lawyer today?
In family law, we are fortunate to have a great number of smart and reasonable attorneys on the opposing side. Occasionally, we have attorneys that take on the persona and personal conflicts of their own clients. Although it is always important to be able to identify with your client, an attorney’s ability to stay within that professional code can save both parties money, stress and help the parties resolve their split in a respectful and dignified way. Without that tempered attitude on the other side, resolving a divorce outside of court can be very challenging.
What is your favorite part of being a lawyer?
I love that no day is the same. In family law especially, it is not uncommon to appear in court and argue in favor of an award of, say, spousal support, and the next day, appear before the same judge and argue against an award of spousal in another matter. Unlike in criminal law, where you either always prosecute or always defend the accused, we family lawyers wear both hats all the time.
Also, work in a place that helps you develop professionally and creatively. I am so lucky to be an associate attorney at Whiting, Fallon, Ross & Abel, and I was love-struck with the firm from the moment of my first interview nearly three years ago. In 2017 we anticipate having thirteen attorneys in our office – that is thirteen very smart people to collaborate with. I’ve had the honor and privilege to be mentored by our founding partner, Bill Whiting, who has been in practice more than 50 years, and Andrew Ross, our managing partner, who was named “Lawyer of the Year” by the Best Lawyers 2017 for Family Law in the Oakland Metropolitan Area, among numerous other awards and accolades. Of course, Ann Fallon is a giant in the field of pensions and complex division of retirement accounts, and it has been wonderful to absorb as much knowledge from her as I can.
What is your dream vacation?
I think my dream vacation right now would be to visit Cuba; preferably hosted closely by some locals to get the authentic experience.
What are you reading now?
Wilbert Rideau’s In Place of Justice. I met Mr. Rideau a few years ago after he gave a talk about his experience as a former prisoner and death row inmate in Louisiana’s Angola State Prison. He holds the distinction of having been sentenced to death for the same crime three times – and having his death sentence reversed by the United States Supreme Court three times.
What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?
I love to swing dance and have recently started to learn the Argentinian tango. I also used to work with counsel appointed by the California Supreme Court to represent indigent death row inmates at the habeas corpus level. It usually takes years to be able to work on cases as this level, but I was fortunate enough to get this experience early in my career.
What person, living or dead, real or fictional, would you like to have dinner with?
My maternal grandmother, Marysia Wojcieszek. She was tough as nails, and I admit I was a little scared of her when I was a kid. She was born and raised in Poland and survived World War II. I used to count the bullet holes on the side of her building (kamienica) from the War. I was a young teenager when she died. Before she died, I asked her as many questions as I could about her experiences growing up, World War II and communist Poland. I wish I could get a second chance at that interview.
Why did you decide to be an ACBA member? What is the greatest benefit of membership?
I became a member of the ACBA to connect with the local bar, meet attorneys in other practice areas, access CLE training classes, and get news about our judges. The greatest benefit has been collaborating with the ACBA to give back to the community through volunteer work at the courthouse, taking on pro bono cases for litigants in need, or working on the various committees that help run the ACBA. A quick word of praise to Tiela Chalmers, who is an amazingly productive CEO of the ACBA. She is setting an incredible leadership example to our legal community and has done a great job making complicated efforts that benefit the public actually happen in reality. She is a doer and we are fortunate to have her.
Join us on January 26th to honor Anna Bednarczyk and the rest of the Distinguished Service Award recipients at the ACBA’s annual Installation and Distinguished Service Awards Dinner.
Mingle with your colleagues and enjoy a delicious dinner, catered by Scott’s Seafood, during the awards ceremony. We are pleased to announce David J. Kelly, General Counsel & Vice President of Basketball Management and Strategy for the Bay Area’s own Golden State Warriors, as this year’s featured speaker.