Member Groups

The Catalyst
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law

September 2011, vol. 17, no. 1

Getting to know our very own Young Lawyer of the Year: An interview with Emily Masalski

Mary: Emily, it’s such a great pleasure to interview you! You’ve had a big year, haven’t you? You were selected as the ISBA’s Young Lawyer of the Year for Cook County. Just how does one become the lawyer of the year? What is the process?

Emily: Each spring, the ISBA Young Lawyers Division solicits nominations for the two awards (Cook County and outside Cook County). Young lawyers can self-nominate or other attorneys may nominate individuals for consideration by the YLD selection committee. The ISBA Women and the Law Committee nominated me at one of our meetings. Thereafter, two committee members, Julie Neubauer and Nicole Carrion, submitted a nomination package which included a statement of merit, my résumé, copies of articles that I have published, and two letters of recommendation.

Mary: Obviously you’re very active in the ISBA. How did you first become involved in the bar association? What are your areas of interest in the ISBA?

Emily: I became involved in the ISBA when I moved back to Illinois after spending a few years in New York City. I thought it would be a great way to meet fellow Illinois attorneys and in 2008, I was appointed as a member of the Women & the Law Committee. I am also involved as an Assembly member and serve on the Environmental Law Section Council’s sustainability committee.

Mary: Are you a homegrown Chicagoan or are you a transplant?

Emily: I am a homegrown Chicagoan!

Mary: What schools did you attend, up to and including law school and what were your areas of study?

Emily: I attended Resurrection High School and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in Agricultural and Environmental Communications & Education. After college, I moved to New York to study at Pace University School of Law in White Plains, New York and obtained my J.D. and Environmental Law Certificate.

Mary: Who would you say were and are the biggest influences on your life and why?

Emily: My family has been the biggest influence on my life because they have helped guide me through all sorts of things.

Mary: Whom do you consider the most influential woman in your life and why?

Emily: Wow. That is a really tough question. My mom usually has the right answers or points me in the right direction.

Mary: When did you decide to become an attorney? Was there a specific event or individual who made an impact on you to reach that decision?

Emily: When I was growing up, my dad would constantly tell me that the “law is a part of everything.” I bet that advice shaped my career path a bit! I also was interested in journalism and environmental issues. During college, I had the opportunity to take an environmental law class with Professor Margaret Grossman and decided to look into law schools with environmental law programs.

Mary: Tell me about your first job out of law school and how you got hired. Any tips for our new law school graduates?

Emily: During my third year of law school, I found an online posting for an “agency attorney intern” position at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. The day after my law school graduation, I received a phone call to set up an interview. It was a long process, but well worth the wait! My tip for new law graduates would be to check out government agency or company web sites for job postings because sometimes the larger job boards do not have everything that is out there. Also, be patient and don’t give up!

Mary: How long were you in New York and what brought you back to Chicago?

Emily: I was in New York for close to five years and I am admitted to practice in New York and Connecticut. In 2006, I decided to sit for the Illinois bar exam. After I passed the Illinois bar, I moved back to be closer to my family and spend time with my grandmother (while she was still alive).

Mary: With what firm do you currently practice and what types of cases do you have?

Emily: I am currently a litigation associate at Deutsch, Levy & Engel, Chtd. in Chicago practicing in the areas of commercial litigation, environmental law, and banking and creditor’s rights. I have had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of cases involving breach of contract, title claims, all aspects of mortgage foreclosure actions, consumer fraud claims, leaking underground storage tanks, trespass, nuisance, and compliance and/or permitting issues under various environmental statutes.

Mary: If you had to say you have a passion for some area of the law, what would it be?

Emily: Environmental law.

Mary: Tell us about your own family life. What do you and your husband enjoy doing in your leisure time?

Emily: We have been trying to get outside more and run on the lakefront path. We also like to try new restaurants.

Mary: Emily, our “very own” young lawyer of 2011, what does the future hold for you? Your dreams and goals?

Emily: My short term goal is to finish the Nike Women’s half marathon in San Francisco in October. I am training for the race with my younger sister and best friend. My other dreams and goals are still in the works! ■


Mary F. Petruchius is a solo general practitioner in Sycamore, IL. She is the 2011-2012 Secretary for the Standing Committee on Women & the Law and is its CLE Subcommittee Chair. Mary is an incumbent on the ISBA Assembly for the 16th Judicial Circuit. She can be reached at and her Web site is <>.