Sasha Polonsky, JD ’06
Associate, Cooley LLP, New York
Sasha Polonsky’s professional path is varied and impressive. Her career has included strategy and consulting work for Silicon Valley technology clients, an internship at the Department of State in Washington, an educational exchange and internship at Seiko Epson in Japan, a clerkship for Massachusetts’ highest court, and positions in some of the country’s most prestigious law firms.
But her favorite work has been when she can help others achieve just results.
“Outside of the corporate context, I have represented on a pro bono basis a number of individuals seeking asylum in the United States,” says Polonsky, JD ’06. “Most of these clients have been Guinean women who have been victims of unthinkable gender-based violence.
“The process of advocating for them to asylum officers and immigration judges has unending rewards as the clients slowly allow themselves to be optimistic about their future and that of their children,” she adds.
Polonsky and her former clients often stay in touch. She recalls that some of her favorite moments have been taking a former client and her 4-year-old daughter to see A Christmas Carol in the West Village and the UniverSoul Circus in Brooklyn. “This 25-year-old woman has traveled a long road, and now with a green card and an education, has hope that her daughter will never know the perils that defined her own childhood,” Polonsky says. “Instead her daughter will be able to enjoy a rich cultural and intellectual environment in New York.”
After graduation from the law school in 2006, Polonsky clerked for the Honorable Margaret Marshall, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court. She then joined the New York office of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, where she also worked during her second summer of law school. Now Polonsky practices in the Commercial Litigation group in Cooley LLP’s New York office.
“Litigation is a constant juggling act and often very stressful,” she says. “But the practice of law can also be surprisingly collegial, even in this adversarial context. I enjoy most the ability to develop relationships with clients as individuals, and to reassure and offer them workable solutions to problems that seem to them out of control and incomprehensible.”
Polonsky credits her time at Washington University School of Law with preparing her for her legal career. Her work as a research assistant during law school not only provided her background in securities and corporate law, but also led to a lifelong mentorship.
While in St. Louis she volunteered through the Women’s Law Caucus at the girls’ detention center. As part of a mentoring and empowerment project, she helped “teenage girls to organize debates on topics largely of their choosing – for example, which rapper was better, Nelly or Chingy.” Polonsky says those experiences gave her perspective on the importance of “developing self-esteem and pride of intellectual engagement at a young age, as with all stages of life.”
Polonsky also served as editor-in-chief of the Washington University Law Review. “My work on the Law Review was probably the most apt bridge between my undergraduate and legal careers,” she says. “And this was not just on a substantive level. I became very friendly with the Bluebook, but also learned valuable lessons about managing an organization, recognizing multiple different stakeholder interests – student, faculty, alumni, article contributor, audience – and endeavoring to meet the competing needs of important constituencies.”
You can read more about Sasha Polonsky here.