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Interview of the Month

An Interview with Amy Puerto

Susan L. Pollet
Chair of the Archive and Historian Committee

Q: When did you join the WWBA, and why did you join it?
A: I occasionally attended events hosted by the WWBA in the past, but officially joined a little over a year ago.  It was important to me to network with other women similarly situated and to share my experiences and knowledge with women starting their legal careers. 

Q: Which WWBA activities have you been involved in?
A: I am the co-chair of the criminal law committee.

Q: Please tell our members about your legal career.
A: I began my career in the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office right out of law school.  When I started, I worked in the Appeals and Special Litigation Division writing motions, as most ADA’s do.  Next, I worked in the Grand Jury and Local Courts Division in branches in Mount Vernon, Yonkers, and Northern Westchester.  After that, I worked in the Career Criminal Bureau of the Superior Court Trial Division prosecuting felony cases.  In 2007, I became the Deputy Chief of the Domestic Violence Bureau in the Special Prosecutions Division where I prosecuted domestic violence and child abuse cases, and supervised other attorneys doing the same.  After several years, I began to explore other professional opportunities and in January of 2016, joined Westchester County Court Judge Helen M. Blackwood as her Principal Court Attorney.  Since 2018, Judge Blackwood has been designated as an Acting Supreme Court Justice handling civil matters, and in 2019, Acting Surrogate Judge.  Additionally, she is one of the two Youth Part judges in Westchester County under the recent Raise the Age legislation, so I’ve really learned so much more than I ever expected to in this role. 

Q: In your experience, how has the landscape changed over the course of your legal career, if at all, for women law students and women lawyers in Westchester County.
A: While in law school, I interned at a personal injury law firm, the DA’s Office, and for a Kings County Court Judge.  During that time, as well as in the early part of my career, I felt like I was surrounded by men everywhere I went.  About half way through my career, that seemed to change. I started noticing the moments when there were more females in the courtroom than men – the judge was a woman, the prosecutor (me) was a woman, and the defense attorney was a woman.  Those were memorable moments for me and now they occur quite frequently.  I’m proud to say that today, there are more women on the Westchester County Court bench than men – this was not the case when I began my legal career. It pleases me to see that for the most part, the legal community of Westchester County offers more professional opportunities to women than ever before.  Of course, there’s always progress to be made, and I think the existence of the WWBA is instrumental in attaining that equality.

Q: What are your other community activities when you are not practicing law or contributing to the WWBA?
A: I have been every active in the PTA at my children’s schools and volunteer in their extracurricular activities as much as possible.  I’m also a member of my town’s Democratic Committee, as well as the Democratic Club. 

Q: How have you balanced your legal career with your family responsibilities over the years.
A: Balancing work and family-life has been the biggest challenge of my career, and frankly, I’m still working on it. I am extremely fortunate to have my parents close by and have relied on them for help with my children throughout the years.  Also, I have been very lucky to find excellent care-givers for my children.  I believe that a supportive partner and good, reliable help are the keys to making it all work.  Surprisingly, as my children got older, they needed me more, not less, which is not what I expected.  As they say, little children, little problems, big children, big problems, and that is definitely true! One of the reasons why I left the DA’s Office when I did was because I was struggling with balancing my job, particularly trying cases, and handling all of my family responsibilities.  My current position allows me to balance my career and my family much better and still offers me the professional fulfillment I need.

Q: What advice would you like to give to women lawyers entering the legal profession.
A: A very dear friend and colleague of mine once advised me that you can have it all, just not at the same time and I’ve never forgotten those words.  If you choose to have a family, don’t be afraid to take a step back from your career or make a change in your career to simplify things.  There’s absolutely no shame in making that choice, despite what you may be feeling. Opportunities will be waiting for you when you’re ready to find them.

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