Bousquet Holstein celebrates Women's History Month with interviews with select women attorneys in the law firm.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we invited our attorneys to talk about their experiences in the legal field and share any advice they have for up-and-coming lawyers. Our firm appreciates the incredible contributions these attorneys make, not only to the history of our firm, but the history of the legal field.

Table of Contents

Sharon A. McAuliffe

Sharon A. McAuliffe, Esq.

For over 30 years, Sharon McAuliffe has focused her career on employee benefits and ERISA law. Highly regarded for her expertise, she has lectured extensively on ERISA and QDROs including teaching classes at Syracuse University College of Law. Sharon continues to practice as a member of Bousquet Holstein, focusing on employee benefits, trusts and estates, and QDROs.

Why did you decide to become an attorney?

SAM: My story is a little different because I did not go right to law school after college. In fact, I did not get my law degree until I was forty. I had learned a lot about my specific practice area, employee benefit law, before I became a lawyer. The predecessor to Bousquet Holstein was Green & Seifter. There were actually two Green & Seifter firms, a law firm and a CPA firm. I was hired to manage the pension reporting work for the accounting firm.

I’d walk into meetings and clients would ask me, “Are you an accountant or an attorney” and I’d say “neither” and you could see their expression change. Especially in that day-and-age, as a woman, you needed the degree and title to be respected.

I knew more than anyone else about employee benefits, but because I wasn’t a certified accountant or lawyer, other people would have to take the lead on client matters. I got tired of doing that. I wanted to be the lead attorney on an audit or benefit matter, so I went to law school and I became an attorney.

What is it like to see the firm change over the years?

SAM: When I started as an attorney, I was one out of a handful of women attorneys in the firm. Now, our firm has more than doubled in size and almost half of the attorneys are women. It’s amazing to see these younger attorneys succeed in this space, and I love that I get to be a mentor to these incredibly smart women.

Laura T. Hedge

Laura T. Hedge, Esq.

For almost a decade, Laura Hedge has exclusively focused her career on matrimonial litigation and family law. Prior to joining the firm, Laura represented high-net worth clients in New York City, litigating custody and divorce cases at trial and skillfully negotiating prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Due to her highly regarded reputation, Super Lawyers has recognized her as a Rising Star for six consecutive years.

What was your path to law school?

LTH: The path to law school does not have to be linear and mine certainly was not. I worked in New York City for four years after graduating from St. Bonaventure University before attending law school at Villanova. I strongly believe that the experiences I had in those four years were not only steppingstones to where I am now, but also gave me a unique law school experience and helped me more easily navigate the working world as a young attorney.  

I became interested in being a lawyer, specifically a litigator, when I attended the National Youth Leadership Forum on Law in Washington, D.C., in high school. It was an incredible opportunity and I credit that first experience arguing a case as the moment I realized this was something I was good at and would like to do as a profession. After graduating from St. Bonaventure as a journalism major, I accepted a position in corporate public relations at Condé Nast Publications in Manhattan. Then I, along with much of the print publishing world, was laid off during the global recession in 2009. I accepted a position at a real estate merchant bank and private equity firm called Island Capital Group, also in New York City. I worked for the CEO, who was very encouraging of my desire to attend law school. I left Island Capital in 2011 to begin my 1L year at Villanova. 

There is no question that my experiences working with high-profile, high-net-worth individuals at Condé Nast and Island Capital directly translated to my decision to pursue a career representing high-net-worth clients in my work as a matrimonial and family law attorney. I was hired as a summer associate at the boutique matrimonial law firm Cohen Rabin Stine Schumann LLP (now Rabin Schumann and Partners LLP), specializing in high-net-worth matrimonial and family law litigation in Manhattan my 2L summer, and only left the firm in December 2021, then as a Partner, to come here to Bousquet Holstein. 

Why did you choose to practice family law?

LTH: Many reasons, I care deeply about assisting clients in navigating very emotionally and financially difficult situations and I have seen the benefit of having an attorney who truly cares. I enjoy digging into the issues and strategizing with the client about the best path forward. Also, family law is constantly changing, both legislatively and through the courts, as the social issues and questions around “family” are in constant evolution and family law draws on almost every other area of law, so it is always interesting. 

Thinking back, when I was working at Condé Nast, I had the opportunity to meet two very special Yemeni women, Nujood Ali, who was only a child at the time, and her lawyer Shada Nasser. Nujood was a child bride in Yemen, married off to a man three times her age when she was only nine years old. After months of horrific abuse by her husband, she managed to escape and travel alone to the courthouse in her city. She sat alone and waited until someone acknowledged her. Finally, a judge found her, she told him she wanted a divorce, and she was eventually connected with Shada Nasser, one of Yemen’s first female human rights attorneys. Shada secured Nujood’s divorce – an historic event that made international news and has been the catalyst for many child brides in Yemen securing divorces from their husbands. Meeting them, true heroes, and understanding the impact a lawyer can make in a client’s life, especially on such a personal level, will always stay with me.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming attorneys?

LTH: Mentors, especially for young women lawyers, are everything. I feel so fortunate that I’ve had so many incredible women as mentors encourage me through the hardest times, support me and celebrate through triumphs, and truly model and show me how to do this very difficult, and very rewarding work that we do. 

Sometimes that mentorship is offering an open door and checking in on young attorneys. Sometimes it is physically taking them by the hand at an event and saying, “come meet this judge, come meet this colleague, they’re a great person to know.” Sometimes it is offering challenging assignments and constructive criticism, teaching by example, inviting young attorneys to watch court appearances and trials, and ultimately working together as a team.

I have been mentored in all of these ways and more, and I continue to learn from my mentors every day. I want young attorneys to know that when someone offers help and guidance, take that person up on the offer, it will likely prove invaluable.

The legal world is challenging, and the old-world order still exists, but smart, talented young women lawyers have a significant impact and a strong voice. Join bar associations, join committees, seek out mentorship opportunities, learn through experience and you will eventually find that you can not only hold your own, but there will be another young woman right behind you knocking on your door. 

The legal world is challenging, and the old-world order still exists, but smart, talented young women lawyers have a significant impact and a strong voice.

Catherine A. Ray

Catherine A. Ray, Esq.

Cathy Ray is an associate of the firm in our Trusts and Estates Practice Group. Prior to graduating Syracuse University College of Law, Cathy interned with U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly and externed at the Surrogate’s Court Clinic in Manhattan. Cathy regularly does pro bono work through local legal clinics and was recognized as a 2022 Pro Bono Champion by the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Central New York.

What do you like about being an attorney?

CAR: I became an attorney to help people.  We live in an incredibly complicated world, and I get so much satisfaction in helping my clients navigate and resolve the complexities that exist in trusts & estates. There are so many reasons I enjoy my practice, but one in particular is helping my clients plan for when they inevitably pass away and setting their loved ones up for success and working through any concerns or issues my clients may have in relation.  I am a planner by nature and find so much gratification in assisting my clients prepare an efficient plan that aligns with their personal goals and objectives. 

I’m also grateful that I’m able to make a difference and give back to my community by providing pro bono services in connection with the Volunteer Lawyers Project.  This is such a rewarding part of my practice, and I’m lucky to work at a firm that not only supports my pro bono efforts, but encourages it.

What was it like entering a male-dominated profession?

CAR: When I started law school it was undoubtedly at the forefront of my mind that I was entering a patently male-dominated industry, but if anything, I viewed it as an opportunity to be a part of the change. I’m a firm believer that the legal industry (and frankly all industries) should be representative of our diverse communities, and I believe having more women at the table helps contribute to that. Attorneys have a lot of power and responsibility – and I believe the more diverse and inclusive our legal world is, the more empathy we garner due to the broadening of our collective perspective, and the closer we arrive to equal justice.  

One of the many things I love about our firm is that we have so many strong, female leaders who are great role models for younger generations of attorneys. And so while, yes, the legal industry is still male-dominant, there are also so many incredible women in this profession, many of whom are trailblazers, who have prevailed in their professions, despite inequality, and that’s important to recognize as well.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming female attorneys?

CAR: Identify and connect with inspiring leaders who are willing to mentor you. I am a firm believer in mentorship – we all go through periods of self-doubt, and the road to becoming a lawyer can feel quite long, tedious, and sometimes lonely. Find someone who not only encourages and inspires you through those tough periods, but can provide you with perspective and empathy. And just know if you are struggling with imposter syndrome, you are not alone: talk about it with trusted friends, family members, colleagues, mentors, and/or other prospective female attorneys.  

And so while, yes, the legal industry is still male-dominant, there are also so many incredible women in this profession, many of whom are trailblazers, who have prevailed in their professions, despite inequality, and that’s important to recognize as well.

Kimberly N. Rothman

Kimberly N. Rothman, Esq.

As a member of the firm, Kim Rothman has built a highly regarded reputation for her trusts and estates practice and estate administration practice in Ithaca, New York. Kim is a founding member of the Finger Lakes Women’s Bar Association and previously taught an estate planning course at Cornell Law School.

What is a challenge you’ve had to face throughout your career?

KNR: I think the hardest challenge for me has been managing the constant workflow and maintaining a healthy work/life balance as a mother of young twins. When it was just me and my partner, I could work later at night to finish my work, but now, my kids need me home at a certain time even when I’m in the middle of a project.

I struggle because there is always a constant need for more time whether that’s more time for work or more time for my family. It may be hard at times, but I’ve learned it’s important to take a step back and say “no” to more work when I need to.

Tell me about a female mentor who has made an impact on you throughout your career.

KNR: I’ve had many mentors and the role they play in your life tends to change throughout your career. When you’re starting out, it’s great to have someone that you can come to with questions without feeling embarrassed. But as I became a more seasoned attorney, it was great to have those mentors to talk about how they manage their workflow and families. This is a hard job, and so it’s extremely important to have someone to talk to.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming attorneys?

KNR: When I taught classes at Cornell, I used to ask my students what their plans were after law school. I was shocked that almost all of them wanted to go to big cities and work for big law firms. I understand because that’s what I did after law school, I went to Boston and worked for a 300+ attorney firm. But while I was there, I saw how everyone was working themselves into the ground, and it got to the point where I knew this was not the kind of life I wanted.

So, my advice is, if you ever find yourself unhappy with where you are and you’re looking for the next thing, do not be afraid to move to smaller communities and change your lifestyle. I love living and working in Ithaca, and I am so grateful for the opportunities I’m able to have here.

In the legal field, you find so many people overworking themselves, but I never saw that as a badge of honor. This is a wonderful, engaging and useful profession – but it’s a marathon not a sprint! Figuring out how to do excellent work for my clients, be available for my family, active in my community, and enjoy the journey along the way is my goal. Sometimes I feel like I’m succeeding and other times less so, but I’m grateful for the challenge and the opportunity to practice and live in a place I truly love.

Kavitha Janardhan

Kavitha Janardhan, Esq.

Kavitha Janardhan is a member of the firm with over a decade of experience in employment and labor litigation. She represents both businesses and individuals in disputes including wrongful termination, discrimination, reappointment of academic professionals and professional licensing matters. Prior to joining the firm, Kavitha was a litigator at a globally recognized law firm in Chicago, Illinois.

What do you like about being a litigation attorney?

KJ: I am a naturally curious person, so I enjoy learning the unique details of each case and familiarizing myself with our clients’ situation. I love the creative thought process of crafting arguments and getting our clients the best outcome. And, of course, I love when we win a case for a client. 

As an attorney, why do you feel it’s important to give back to the community?

KJ: As someone who is not originally from Syracuse, performing community service has allowed me to understand the issues that affect people living in CNY. The most rewarding work that I have done for the community is through my involvement with the CNY Diaper Bank. Diaper need is a serious problem that can have heartbreaking effects on young children and their caregivers.  In addition to serving on the board of the Diaper Bank, I organize a diaper drive at the firm every year around Mother’s Day. Our firm has collected thousands of diapers, as well as monetary donations, and through that effort we have made a meaningful difference for CNY families. 

What advice would you give up-and-coming attorneys?

KJ: It’s hard to avoid feelings of self-doubt when you first start out as an attorney.  I still experience self-doubt despite almost 16 years in practice. When I feel overwhelmed, I remind myself that there isn’t a single model of a good attorney. I try to bring my true self to my work and draw from my individual strengths as much as possible.   

When I feel overwhelmed, I remind myself that there isn’t a single model of a good attorney. I try to bring my true self to my work and draw from my individual strengths as much as possible.” 

Diana G. Rogatch

Diana G. Rogatch, Esq.

Diana Rogatch is an associate of the firm in our Brownfields and Litigation Practice Groups. Diana joined Bousquet Holstein after graduating cum laude from Syracuse University College of Law, while simultaneously earning an M.B.A. from the Whitman School of Management.

What do you find rewarding about being an attorney?

DGR: I like being in a position of power to help people. The law affects our lives in so many ways, and I like to use the knowledge I have to help those who need it. Some of the most rewarding work I’ve done is helping Ukrainian immigrants seeking protection in the U.S. through the pro bono clinics here in Syracuse, especially as someone originally from Belarus.

When my family and I first came to the United States, my parents did not have the ability to hire an attorney to help them file for a green card or give them immigration advice. Especially at that time, post-9/11, immigration cases were really at a standstill. I remember all the nights my father would stay up late after a full workday to scour the internet for any information that might help get our case processed. He had to try and be his own “attorney” and now, being in the position I’m in, those memories really ground me and inspire me to give back.

Who is a legal figure you admire?

DGR: I look up to a lot of the female partners here at the firm, especially the ones I’ve worked closely with. As a young associate, it’s inspiring to see how they handle a huge caseload, keep clients happy, and are still able to be superheroes back home taking care of their families.

What advice would you give up-and-coming female attorneys?

DGR: Make sure you have people to mentally and emotionally support you during every point in your career. Within the profession itself, I think it’s also important to build relationships with people in positions of authority so they can advocate for you when certain decisions are being made that impact you.

Anna Putintseva

Anna Putintseva, Esq.

With almost 20 years of experience, Anna Putintseva practices both business and immigration law, skillfully combining her knowledge of the two areas when working with start-ups and international companies. Prior to joining the firm, Anna practiced law for over a decade in Kyiv, advising multinational and Ukrainian companies on cross-border mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and various business transactions. Anna often presents to the Ukrainian community in Syracuse and provides counsel in both Ukrainian and Russian.

What do you like most about being an attorney?

AP: I love how many career opportunities you have in the legal profession. For example, you can work as an in-house attorney, at a firm, or work in the public sector. Then you can really narrow your practice to the areas you enjoy.

I practice business law and immigration law, which can seem like very different areas of law, but actually relate in more ways than you would think. As a business lawyer, I assist start-ups with the establishment of U.S. operations and then I can help them to hire foreign workers at their new U.S. business. I also guide businesses clients on the immigration consequences of mergers and acquisitions and other corporate changes.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

AP: Knowing that my work made an impact on my clients. In my immigration practice, it’s great when we find out our clients successfully obtained their visas and can start working, or finally reunited with their families. In my business practice, it’s rewarding when I can help my clients achieve their business objectives.

Maria C. Zumpano

Maria C. Zumpano, Esq.

Maria Zumpano is an associate at the firm and focuses her practice on business, tax, and succession planning matters. Maria began her career as a Certified Public Accountant at a “Big Four” international accounting firm and was the Director of Process Improvement and Controller for a management services organization. Prior to graduating magna cum laude from Syracuse University College of Law, she gained legal experience at AIG Europe Ltd in London, England as well as Baker & Hostetler LLP in Washington, DC.

What are you passionate about and how do you incorporate it into your legal work?

MCZ: I’m very passionate about family and that’s why I love when I get to work with family owned businesses. But outside of work, I use my passion for family by serving on the board of directors for Toomey Residential and Community Services and the Veterans Health Research Institute of CNY. Both these organizations give me an outlet to help families in my community and make a difference.

What advice would you give up-and-coming female attorneys?

MCZ: It’s so important to network with professionals outside of the legal field, so you have people with different realms of expertise to bounce ideas off of when trying to solve problems for your clients. I’d also advise people to find themselves a good mentor. Obviously when choosing a mentor, it’s important to find someone who uplifts you, but it’s just as important to find someone who will challenge you. We like when people are our cheerleaders, but its invaluable to have someone who will open your eyes to new opportunities – because you don’t know what you don’t know.

Rebecca R. Cohen

Immigration attorney Rebecca Cohen smiles in front of Syracuse fountains.
Rebecca R. Cohen, Esq.

Rebecca Cohen is an associate at Bousquet Holstein and focuses her practice on business and family immigration matters. Prior to joining Bousquet Holstein, Rebecca served as Associate Director, Corporate and Foundation Relations at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She regularly donates her time to pro bono clinics and was recognized as a 2020 Pro Bono Champion by the Volunteer Lawyers Project of CNY. Rebecca currently serves on the Fayetteville-Manlius Board of Education and on the InterFaith Works Board of Directors.

What is a challenge you’ve had to overcome in your career?

RRC: Finding the right professional fit. It took me some time to find a career that incorporated my interests, skillset, and passions, and I even tried nonprofit management before I returned to my work as an attorney. I have learned over time that I am very mission-driven and that is what ultimately led me to my immigration practice. I love working with people and directly building those connections. In immigration, there are a lot of happy endings where I can help reunite couples, families or help businesses and workers achieve their goals. It’s a real privilege to be an attorney and an advocate for others. I also thrive on doing work that contributes to building a more diverse and culturally rich country.

Additionally, I think finding a healthy work/life balance is a challenge, especially for women. Women are hard-wired to give a lot to their communities, but it’s also important to make time for self-care and the things that you enjoy doing outside of work and public service.

Tell me about a female mentor who has made an impact on you throughout your career.

RRC: I’ve worked with a lot of women who have both inspired and supported me through my career. I think it’s so important to have those people who inspire you to grow and can help you learn. I’ve had the opportunity to mentor some of the firm’s summer associates and that has been a rewarding experience for me. When they are here, I would check-in from week to week and make sure their experience was fulfilling and challenging. I am happy to give that support.

What advice would you give to up-and-coming female attorneys?

RRC: My advice would be to cast a wide net, as early as you can in your career. This is an intense job and so you should really try to find work you are passionate about doing. Really think about what you enjoy and if you’re not sure, try new things outside of your comfort zone. If you’re in law school, network with alumni, professors, anyone you can to see what people are doing with their careers in real life.

Also, don’t be afraid to be the strong, intelligent women you are!

I think finding a healthy work/life balance is a challenge, especially for women. Women are hard-wired to give a lot to their communities, but it’s also important to make time for self-care and the things that you enjoy doing outside of work and public service.

Rachel B. Wadsworth

Rachel B. Wadsworth, Esq.

Rachel Wadsworth is an associate in the firm’s Trust and Estates Practice Group. Prior to graduating cum laude from Albany Law School, she interned in a variety of offices including the Federal Public Defenders of Northern New York and Legal Assistance of Western New York’s Pro Se Divorce Clinic.

What do you find rewarding about your job?

RBW: Estate planning can be a difficult conversation for people to have, and I get to be there for client’s during an emotional time. I find being there for clients in a time of need, really rewarding. I also enjoy doing pro bono work for the Landlord Tennent Eviction Court through the Volunteer Lawyers Project. A group of us at the firm go over every Thursday to help out. It’s not only great experience for me as an attorney, but I have the opportunity to help people at a very vulnerable time. In some cases, tenants are fresh out of the foster care system and don’t have the resources to fight evictions themselves, so it’s rewarding to help them in any way I can.

Have you ever felt imposter syndrome and how do you combat those feelings?

RBW: It’s one of those things I didn’t realize I was doing until I learned more about it. At times those feelings arise, I try to remind myself of all my accomplishments that have gotten me to where I am now and I think about times I’ve gotten positive feedback. Whenever someone tells me areas I can do better in, I try to frame it in a positive light and use it as a tool to improve my skillset.

Tell me about a female mentor who has made an impact on you throughout your career.

RBW: When I was looking for jobs after law school, I avoided firms that did not have female leaders because I’ve heard horror stories from other women. It was something that was crucial to me when picking where I wanted to work and was what really drew me to this firm. There are a lot of women leaders here and they were so welcoming, supportive and accessible – even when I joined during the pandemic. Having them has mentors has been invaluable.

“When searching for jobs after law school, I avoided firms that didn’t have female leaders… It was something that was crucial to me when picking where I wanted to work.”