At a felony sentencing hearing, a judge had to decide whether to put my client in jail for a full year or allow him to serve his sentence at home. As it turned out, the judge did not put my client in jail. My client's family was with us at the hearing and I can still remember hearing his mother release a huge breath that she had been holding in for a long time when the judge said the words “electronic home monitoring.” We were all relieved. I had worked on this case for two years. As my client, his family, and I said our goodbyes in the hallway, his mother said to me, “You have become family, I feel like I should invite you to Thanksgiving!” We all laughed, hugged, and parted ways. As I walked to my car I thought about how this was not the first time a family had expressed that sentiment to me.
Throughout my representation, I meet so often with clients and their families that by the time the case resolves, these people may have seen me more than they see their actual relatives. And I cannot complain about that. I absolutely love that clients and their families grow to trust me in a way that allows me to give them the best representation. That trust allows them to share their goals and fears, and to open up about family dynamics and issues that can give explanation and context to why their son/daughter/husband/wife are in the position they are in. The trust also helps me feel like I can take the case in directions that might be unconventional. I will do what it takes to get the best results for my clients, and my clients and their families recognize that.
Conversations in my office with my clients go beyond the typical boundaries of the case. These types of conversations help me develop a compelling defense. Every person accused of a crime is a complicated individual with a past, present, and future. She or he has a family, a culture, and a unique perspective. I am from the Ukraine and grew up in an immigrant family. If it were my story to be told to someone with the power to decide the outcome of my case, I would want them to know that. As such, it would be a disservice for the prosecutor, judge, or jury not to learn about who my client is. And it is my job to teach them.
I thrive on working with people. Throughout my life I found ways to use my passions to contribute to various groups of people. I love to travel. So when I was nineteen years old I went to Ecuador to work with a group of volunteers in an orphanage. When I was twenty-two, I flew to Thailand to teach English with a group of teachers for one month. I grew up playing classical piano. So in my early twenties I joined a Surf Rock band where I played the Farfisa organ. In law school I craved community so I joined the Moot Court Board and later became its Vice Chair. I love to be around people and I love to work with them.
The criminal justice system is made up of many people – those accused of crimes, clerks, bailiffs, prosecutors, judges, bail bonds people, drug and alcohol counselors, witnesses, security guards, receptionists, paralegals, defense attorneys, etc. In order to navigate this complex and often times chaotic system one must be good with people. On a typical day when I walk into a courthouse, I may ask the security guard how her grandson is doing, wave to a passing defense attorney, and enter the court room ready to engage with my client. I am first and foremost my client's attorney. And while I do my job in a respectful and congenial manner, I never forget that my client's best interests are my top priority.
To get the best possible outcome for my clients I also employ my many years of experience in the criminal defense world. I went to Seattle University School of Law knowing that I wanted to be a defense attorney. And when I interned at the American Civil Liberties Union in law school, my passion for criminal defense was strengthened. Before I graduated, I interned at a prestigious criminal defense firm in Seattle. I stayed on after graduation as an associate. There I handled private and public defense. After three years with that firm I transitioned to Dellino Law Group in 2015.
Even though I will text or email my clients on a weekend and sometimes at, say, 8:30 pm on a Wednesday night, I am still able to maintain a good work/life balance. I have a husband who also happens to be an attorney and a toddler who is most definitely not an attorney (but might think he is). We live in Seattle and enjoy exploring our neighborhood, spending time with our close friends, and getting outdoors. We also enjoy talking about the law, social justice, and the criminal justice system. Because I love what I do, I am often thinking about and working on my cases even when I am technically off the clock.
Criminal defense is not just my job, it is my lifestyle. The bonds I build with my clients stay with me beyond office or court doors. I am honored that so many people allow me to represent them during the hardest times of their lives. And while it never feels good to need a criminal defense attorney – I hope to make my clients feel protected, cared for, and safe. And to obtain the best possible outcome for their cases. My ultimate goal is to make my clients feel good about this process and at the end of it to hopefully invite me to their Thanksgiving dinner.