For Class of 2010 alumna Daniela Ivancikova, the journey to becoming a deputy attorney general in New Jersey did not follow a predictable course.
A former businesswoman, Ivancikova expected to work in transactional law and focused her studies in law school accordingly, she said during a visit to the law school on Feb. 20 sponsored by the American Constitution Society.
“I never took Trial Advocacy or anything litigation related,” said Ivancikova, who joined the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office in 2011.
And indeed, Ivancikova was immersed in transactional law in her first job after law school, as an associate at White and Williams.
“The firm was great; the pay was great, but transactional work is so process oriented and extremely time intensive,” she said. “I wanted to give litigation a try.”
So Ivancikova made a dramatic switch, joining the New Jersey AG’s Office, where she was assigned 25 cases in her very first week.
Feeling nearly overwhelmed, Ivancikova said she found her way by turning her attention first to broad goals and the stage of the litigation process that each case had reached. Ivancikova quickly learned that gaining the respect of opposing counsel is critical, as are avoiding default judgments, taking steps to stay in a judge’s good graces and, above all, winning the case.
Initially assigned to the Corrections and State Police Section, Ivancikova now works in the Education and Higher Education Division of the AG’s Office, serving as counsel to the New Jersey Board of Examiners.
Since joining the AG’s Office, Ivancikova has fought for state laws and regulations to be upheld and handled cases involving juvenile justice, the Second Amendment, education law, and employment discrimination.
Government work is profoundly different, she said, noting that partners in law firms act as “buffers” between young associates and clients or judges. But government work offers more autonomy, she said, with little focus on the bottom-line concerns that overshadow private practice.