Presenting a case to a judge and jury is something that might throw some newly minted lawyers. For defence attorney Tina Georgieva Dual JD ’11, however, it pales in comparison to the pressure she at the age of 14 when her family emigrated from Bulgaria to Canada.
“I was just about to start high school. I spoke a little English but nowhere to the point of being comfortable with my peers. Being thrown into the fire that way challenges you to overcome the stress— you have no other choice.”
Georgieva, who now speaks three languages (Bulgarian, French and English), calls that experience “a positive change in my life. I think I’ve developed very favourable characteristics from that. It’s no longer stressful for me to be pushed out of my comfort zone. There were challenges but, in the end, it was one of those experiences where you become better for it. You have to fight for yourself, essentially.”
She elected to study law because “I thought it was the best job in the world. To get paid to write, talk and argue. All the things that I love to do anyway. It was a naïve perception of what lawyers do.”
Georgieva left her family in Toronto to attend University of Windsor Faculty of Law because of its joint JD program offered with the University of Detroit Mercy Law School through which a student can earn both a US and Canadian law degree in three years.
“It was my first choice. I felt it would give me a great opportunity because it is an increasingly global world. I thought the ability to be licensed in more than one jurisdiction would give me an edge over those being licensed in just one. I think it gave me a real jump start on life.”
She particularly enjoyed taking classes concurrently in both Windsor and Detroit. “We had such a wide range of professors who were practising attorneys. They gave us a perspective for the study materials we were being taught by offering us real-life, applicable examples.”
While a student, Georgieva participated in the Legal Aid of Windsor clinic. “It was the first time we were required to provide real advice to real people that could impact and help what I do now. For example, I had to communicate with clients and explain the legal strategy for handling their case.”
She earned a spot on Windsor Law’s international criminal moot team that competed in White Plains, NY. “It was really hard work. You have a problem and must find an applicable case in law and a persuasive argument for both sides. Then you’re told what side you have to argue for. It created my passion for law.”
After her 2011 graduation, Georgieva clerked for Bowman and Brooke, a Detroit law firm where she now works as a product liability defence attorney.
She is licensed to practise law in Michigan, Florida, and Ontario. Her practice focuses on product liability claims in the areas of automotive equipment, medical devices, consumer goods, and heavy equipment. She has represented some of the largest multinational manufacturers and distributors of a wide variety of products in both federal and state court.
Georgieva’s expertise extends to cross-border and multi- jurisdictional issues and cases that involve complex scientific, medical and technical evidence. She has experience in handling resolution efforts, managing discovery including electronic data and jurisdictional discovery, and taking and defending company witness and expert depositions.
She says she’s found there are some challenges specific to female lawyers. “Especially when you get to the point of wanting to start a family and have children. It’s more difficult for a woman to leave the workforce, even if just for a few months, and come back as if nothing happened. They can miss out on opportunities.
“Some workplaces are very committed to having women mentor other women and really work with them—on not just professional and business development—but as peers who have been there and done that. Like how to reorganize your work life so you don’t lose on personal life and vice versa.”
She has set her sights on becoming a partner in her firm. “That will involve me continuing to work on my skills as a litigator and lawyer and develop my own business. I have to market myself to the internal audience (partners) so they give me more and a variety of work to grow and develop my skills. And, I have to be well known and get articles published, attend networking events, and meet my obligations as a lawyer. I’m at that point in my career when I have to place a more prominent focus on my niche and become marketable to outside clients.”
She believes in giving back to the community and has done pro bono work on landlord-tenant and tax issues. “I do think that lawyers should absolutely find time to give back to the community no matter how hard it is to find the time.”