When Paulina Garga-Chmiel first accepted the offer to join Chuhak & Tecson, P.C. as an associate, she was excited at the prospect of working for a firm that had a reputation for taking on more sophisticated matters and whose lawyers seemed very knowledgeable, yet approachable. She felt that it was a great opportunity for professional growth, but also a place of business that truly promoted teamwork and collegiality.
Almost seven years later, including recently being elevated to a principal, that sentiment is as strong as ever.
“I feel the firm continually fosters an environment where you can have open conversations with leadership and are able to discuss projects with colleagues,” she said. “The office has an open door atmosphere and everyone is always willing to lend a helping hand when people get really busy.”
Paulina noted that this is especially important when managing one’s workload, particularly when she took over managing one of the Banking group’s larger institutional clients on top of working to bring in new business.
“It’s nice to be able to drop by a colleague’s workspace or hop on a call to bounce ideas off of one another,” she said. “It’s comforting to have that support if any of us need it while also allowing us to take greater ownership of our work and take on more and more complex matters at the Associate level.
In her second year as co-chair of Chuhak & Tecson’s Diversity & Inclusion Council, Paulina credits this atmosphere to the firm’s longstanding commitment to inclusivity, going beyond just focusing on hiring and promoting variance in race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
“Diversity for me, and it aligns with the firm’s diversity and inclusion mission statement, is appreciating people’s unique backgrounds, being open to listening to their different perspective and thought processes on topics, and allowing and providing opportunities for them to further develop skills in areas in which they excel or show interest. Having that mindset and framework in place only enhances our willingness and want to collaborate.”
Paulina contributes to this spirit of collaboration by sharing with colleagues her experience of immigrating to the United States from Poland. She is active member of the Polish American Association, Polish Advocates Society and the Polish American Chamber of Commerce in addition to serving as a translator and point of contact for the firm’s Polish-speaking clients.
In addition to teamwork, Paulina also attributes her successes to her organizational skills and responsiveness to clients. She feels that in addition to being knowledgeable about the subject matter, attorneys have to listen to what their clients really need from them and deliver results in a timely and efficient manner.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize how much law really is a client-oriented, client-facing industry,” she said.
When she is not in the office, Paulina is a sports and exercise enthusiast who has a particular affinity for running, which she sets aside as time to focus on herself and collect her thoughts. She has completed two marathons, the second of which she ran by herself last summer in lieu of competing in a half-Ironman event that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Why you may ask?
“As much as I was disappointed that the half-Ironman was canceled, I decided to go ahead and run a socially distant marathon because I wanted to at least attempt to complete some sort of endurance event,” she said. “In hindsight, I’m happy I did it because I love running. It is active meditation for me.”
In addition to running around her relatively new neighborhood of Skokie, Paulina also enjoys traveling with her husband (although she dislikes flying) and spending quality time with her 3-year-old son.
“Seeing him grow up from being a baby to now being a toddler and starting to learn and experience the world not only inspires me, it motivates me to be the best parent I can be for him,” she said.
She credits the firm’s strong attitude toward work-life balance that makes it easier for her to be such an active parent in her son’s life while enjoying her flourishing career.
“It is really important and a positive element of the firm,” she said. “Occasionally I may have to be available for my clients a few hours on the weekend, but for the most part, my time away from work is actually free time. Unlike at bigger law firms, the culture here also prevents you from burning out.”