MSJDN Member Christina Guerola Sarchio has had a varied, exciting career that would be the envy of any lawyer. It is also the product of a surprising journey. Currently a partner in Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP’s Washington, DC office, where her practice includes high-profile litigation involving Fortune 500 and nationally-recognized clients, she has also worked in the government sector while being able to contribute meaningfully to her Hispanic community. All while serving beside her husband, an Army JAG officer for nearly the last 20 years.
A first-generation American, Christina wanted to be a lawyer from a young age. As a small child, she was enticed by the idea of championing noble causes while getting to “argue” in public. That goal motivated her to push through the New York City public schools — from a rough start in elementary school, where her native Spanish language made her a “second-class” student, through the storied, selective math/science honor program at Stuyvesant High School– and ultimately to earn a coveted Ivy League opportunity at Cornell University. Then, while managing the rigors of her 1L year at George Washington University, she met her future husband, who was already committed to the Army by virtue of his participation in ROTC. Christina’s knowledge of the military was not completely foreign as her father had served in the Spanish Navy, although through compulsory service. After graduation from law school, given the uncertainties of where the Army might send him, Christina made her first career move based on her own interests and passion. Christina took a job back home as a prosecutor with the District Attorney’s office in Manhattan. While there, she prosecuted a broad range of criminal cases, including financial crimes, drug trafficking, and violent assaults, successfully conducting more than eighty hearings and trying more than a dozen jury trials. She and her soldier-lawyer maintained a long distance relationship for two years, during which time he was first at the JAG school in Charlottesville, Virginia, and then stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
When Christina’s then-fiancé got orders to deploy to Bosnia, the Sarchios eloped, after which they had to maintain their long-distance marriage until he returned stateside. After he returned from his deployment, the Army sent him to Washington, DC, where Christina could finally join him after spending half of their relationship apart. DC’s rich, broad legal market and her husband’s ability to land Active duty and then Reserve assignments in the region enabled Christina to pursue her career relatively smoothly. Nevertheless, the planner in her prompted Christina to take precautions, so she is barred in four states, the better to preserve their options for where they might live and work.
Christina’s career path has not been linear, however. Christina is at her fourth law firm, and she has also clerked for both the U.S. Attorney’s Office for DC (working Public Corruption cases) and the U.S. Department of Justice (Civil Rights Division). She has served as President of the Hispanic Bar Association for DC, Vice President for the Hispanic National Bar Association, taught at GW Law, and is a frequent lecturer at legal conferences. She has represented clients such as ExxonMobil (winning a number of courtroom victories for them as lead trial counsel), the National Basketball Players’ Association (helping them terminate their Executive Director, defending them in litigation against him, and identifying a new leader for their organization), the Women’s National Basketball Players’ Association, and a broad range of other top-tier clients in civil and criminal matters. Her successes have not gone unnoticed as Christina has picked up a number of awards and accolades, and she is frequently featured as a top lawyer. Along the way, Christina also had two children, while continuing to work full-time.
Christina believes that the broad array of experiences have made her a better lawyer, thanks to the sharpening and stretching effects of having to manage differing personalities, challenges, and expectations. Christina remains convinced that walking such a diverse path helps lawyers take a holistic approach to problem-solving, which today’s clients recognize, appreciate, and value.
While Christina’s range of experiences have been a matter of choice, many other military spouses end up with similarly varied resumes because of the work available to them at particular duty stations. Christina’s winding career path illustrates how such breadth of experience can be viewed positively. It also provides guidance to other military-spouse attorneys about how to convince potential employers that their knowledge of many areas of the law and exposure to people with different backgrounds actually makes them stronger candidates and more valuable team members.
As a lawyer with four licenses, Christina has been impressed with MSJDN’s ability to effectuate licensing accommodations. And although she is geographically stable, she values MSJDN and its membership network because, “You can never have enough friends or know enough folks who understand and appreciate what you have been through, who can help you and who you can help too.” This spirit of camaraderie is what makes MSJDN special. That, and amazing members like Christina, who have blazed a path for military-spouse attorneys and shown that a fulfilling legal career remains possible when you’re married to a member of the armed forces.