20 Under 40: Tanya Alsheikh

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Occupation/Business: Attorney at Chain | Cohn | Stiles

Tell us how you got into your field. Since I was pretty young — I’d say 10 years old or so, I decided I wanted to become a lawyer. When I was a freshman at Bakersfield Christian High School, I joined the debate team and automatically felt driven to learn how to properly research arguments and persuasively present them. I never really escaped that drive and I only became more passionate about my dream of becoming an attorney (despite my mom’s best efforts to convince me to become a doctor instead). I attended Loyola Marymount University, where I graduated a year early just so I could take that year to work at a law firm and verify that was the job environment I was looking for. After that year, I went straight to law school and never looked back or regretted it for one moment.

What is your “why?” (Why do you get out of bed every morning and do what you do?) It is extremely rewarding to wake up, walk into work, and know that I am really “standing up for the little guy.” I work on both personal injury and elder abuse/neglect cases. As one can reasonably expect, when someone is involved in an accident they become overwhelmed by all the paperwork the insurance companies start sending them and forget what is most important: getting better.

When I get involved in a case, I take away that element of stress associated with dealing with an insurance company. Insurance companies handle these claims daily and sometimes forget that there is an injured human being on the other end of the case and take advantage of that person. We allow the injured person to focus on his or her care and treatment, while we deal with the insurance company.

With respect to the elder abuse/neglect cases, we are representing elders or dependent adults who were entrusted into the care of nursing homes that took advantage of these people by receiving payment for services that were promised, but never provided. Sometimes, those failures end up resulting in very serious injuries, painful conditions requiring hospitalization, or death. We give a voice to a vulnerable population that can’t stand up for themselves. Honestly, when I’m describing the work we do, “rewarding” seems like such a small word.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Never lose track of your goals, but remember to be flexible. Face the challenges that come along the way head-on even if it leads you down a path you never expected to go.

What is the biggest challenge in the marketplace/business that you’ve overcome? I actually think this is a big obstacle all young attorneys face: being taken seriously as an attorney. When people think of lawyers, they usually think of someone who has the white hair to prove their level of knowledge and experience, but all those attorneys started out like me and there is no shame in being a young attorney. It was a matter of me making the conscious choice to feel comfortable and proud of the fact that I became an attorney at 25 years old, instead of trying to avoid the subject altogether.

What is your proudest achievement of your career thus far?

This is a tough one because it is hard to pinpoint just one specific instance.

Something I did not expect when I was starting my career is that the law is not always clear and sometimes the courts have not had any reason or opportunity to interpret that law. When you run into that situation, you feel like you’ve reached a total dead-end, but giving up is not an option. Every time I’m able to push through that feeling and find an answer or craft an argument despite the lack of case law is a time I feel accomplished.

What’s next for you in your career?

Continue to learn and grow. Regardless of your status as an associate or a partner, there is always something new to learn and I plan to push myself to the fullest extent to become as knowledgeable as I can to better serve my clients and community.

What advice would you give to other young professionals and entrepreneurs in Bakersfield? 

Don’t get discouraged or feel like you’re not successful because you ended up in a city like Bakersfield and not Los Angeles or New York. It is a lot easier to find opportunities for growth and the ability to have a real work-life balance in a place like Bakersfield than if you were in one of those big cities where you’re competing with thousands of people and your entire paycheck goes to your cost of living.

How do you hope to help improve Bakersfield, or bring to the community overall? 

I feel like Bakersfield really gets an undeserved reputation of being a terrible place to live, but in all reality, it has so much to offer that gets overlooked — whether it’s the cost of living or that small-town feel despite being a rather large city. I’m so happy to call it home. I am always on the lookout to give back to a city that has been my home for nearly 75 percent of my life. I love to get involved with organizations or groups that are looking to improve the city and provide a tangible reason for people to change their perception of the city. For instance, I was involved with The Innovation Lab, which is part of The Hub of Bakersfield — a team of individuals who work together to contribute to the betterment of downtown Bakersfield to make it a more desirable place to live and enjoy. Groups and organizations like that see the value that I do and what to share that with the community.

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What is one thing you wish you would have known before starting your career? Loan forgiveness counts as income! (haha) and deadlines are everything and procrastination is not an option.

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