Christina Guerola Sarchio: An American Success Story
As a child, Christina Guerola Sarchio watched her father take the oath of American citizenship. Today, she’s an attorney advocating for the rights her father was guaranteed that day.
“My parents were uneducated and couldn’t understand the language very well,” Sarchio said. “When I was 10 years old, I’d be on the phone with credit card companies, or negotiating with landlords for better housing.”
Sarchio’s parents worked very hard to give their daughter every opportunity. Immigrants from Spain, they realized that education was the key to her future, and they sought out the best school districts in New York City. But landlords often were reluctant to rent to immigrants, she says. As a result, Sarchio assumed the role of lead negotiator.
Sarchio sailed through school, graduating from Cornell University and earning a law degree from George Washington University. An admitted workaholic, Sarchio knew she would become a lawyer ever since she began advocating on her parents’ behalf. “There never was any question as to what I wanted to do,” says Sarchio. “Helping my parents, and other friends who were immigrants when I was a child, it was natural for me to become a lawyer.”
During law school, Sarchio continued her advocacy, assisting victims of domestic violence for Ayuda. After graduation, she returned to Manhattan as a prosecutor for the New York County District Attorney’s Office. Sarchio related that her former supervisor at the DA’s office once described her as “charming in person but deadly in the courtroom,” a description she cherishes.
From protecting the public in New York, Sarchio transitioned to private practice in Washington, DC, specializing in commercial and antitrust litigation and representing Fortune 500 companies. Ultimately, she rose to partnership with Howrey Simon Arnold & White, L.L.P.
One case that attests to the formidable trial skills she carried from prosecutor to litigator involved a class-action lawsuit against the tobacco companies, where Sarchio represented a group of tobacco farmers.
“I took the first deposition,” says Sarchio. “I’m 5’4″ and was pregnant, and they had about 10 older, distinguished lawyers who didn’t expect much from me.” Ultimately, the tobacco companies agreed to the largest settlement in antitrust case history, $1.4 billion.
In addition to building an aggressive legal practice, Sarchio reserves time for meaningful service to her community. This includes prominent membership in the local bar and service on the board of directors at the Hispanic Bar Association of DC. As an HBA leader, she has helped lawyers advance their careers to judgeships, high-ranking government positions, and elite private practice. She has also done on-air work as a legal commentator and taught law students for several years.
Sarchio seems a classic example of the immigrant success story, illustrating that America is a land of opportunity where those who excel in school and persevere professionally can succeed, no matter who they are or where they came from.
“For years, Hispanics were not invited to the table. My goal for the future is to ensure not only that we have a seat, but that it is at the head of the table. I want to do this in the business world, the legal community, and the political arena.” During her keynote remarks at a naturalization ceremony in federal court, Sarchio repeatedly stressed that America is defined by possibility. Sarchio is doing her part to transform these possibilities into successful realities.
Tom Calarco is a freelance writer from Schenectady, N.Y. He is the author of The Underground Railroad Conductor, which is available for purchase online at www.travelsthruhistory.com/books.htm and the newly-published The Underground Railroad in the Adirondack Region.
From the January/February 2005 issue of Diversity & The Bar®