The big picture, for lawyers and their clients, is often a quite complex picture. For 2008 graduate and Law Alumni Association President Annie Arbenz, this big picture is the matter of getting to know clients while helping make progress in solving their legal challenges. In addition to working with and for clients, Arbenz is also dedicated to helping improve the community around her.
Tell us about yourself and your work
After a few years in a mid-sized private firm after law school, I decided to leave and open my own practice with three other women. I practice trusts & estates and business law. While I do some motions practice for probate, I mostly stay out of the courtroom and prefer meeting with clients and doing what we can to keep them OUT of court. I’m 30, live with my husband (and fellow GU law grad) Casey, in Gig Harbor, WA. We’re obsessed with our dog, triathlons, and intense TV shows (Breaking Bad, Sopranos, Homeland, etc.), which is weird because we’re both pretty happy people!
What do you most enjoy about your profession?
I love my clients and getting to know them and their families. I could sit around and talk to them about their lives forever. Particularly my elderly clients. I also really enjoy being able to take someone’s problem and fix it for them. Having the power to alleviate stress in someone else’s life is very satisfying. Finally, I really, really enjoy drumming up business; turns out networking is one of my favorite things to do.
What is the most challenging aspect of your profession?
I tend to take things personally and have, on occasion, become emotionally involved in my clients’ legal problems. Over the years, I have gotten better at removing myself from the emotional issues and focusing on what they’re paying me to do: handle the legal issues. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that being a younger woman in my area of practice is a little challenging at times, like it would be if you had a younger doctor. Clients like experience; I have to do a lot more work than an older man might have to do in building up a client’s confidence in me.
Why did you choose to attend law school?
Unfortunately, I was not one of those who knew I was going to be a lawyer when I was younger. I didn’t actually think about law school until I took business law (for my business major) and some political science electives in college and realized that I really enjoyed those classes more than my traditional business classes. In retrospect, probably not enough thought was put into the decision to go to law school, but I’m happy I did.
How has your Gonzaga education influenced your career?
I feel like a broken record saying this, but the focus on legal writing at GU has helped me in my everyday life as a lawyer and was likely the most important part of my education there (not that I knew that while I was in those LRW classes!). Prior to law school, I was prone to get bogged down in the details of something and GU professors helped me understand that you have to consider the bigger picture – all the time. For me, this includes consideration of the law, emotions, cost, time, etc. This “big picture” training has proved very helpful to me.
What else are you passionate about?
I love being involved in my community and have found a lot of joy as an active member of my local Rotary club, as a Wish Granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and in the Alumni Association at GU. Aside from volunteering, I am a huge fan of traveling (and do so whenever possible), being active (hiking, triathlons, snowshoeing), food (eating and cooking), and my family.