Meet Attorney Gordana Mikalacki from Elmm Law Group. She shares her experience, philosophy of never giving up, and why she created her own firm.
Sam: Thank you for taking part in this interview. Would you be able to share with our viewers a little about your upbringing?
Attorney Gordana Mikalacki: I am a ﬁrst generation Serbian-American who comes from a family of entrepreneurs, not lawyers. I grew up working alongside my family in our motel/hotel, apartment complex, laundromat, and pizza restaurant businesses at a very young age. Everyone had a role and task that they were responsible for, which made our businesses run smoothly. There, I learned the importance of hard work, teamwork, never giving up, and fulﬁlling your commitments, which later helped me in obtaining my law degree.
Sam: In terms of those lessons, what were some of the challenges you faced while earning your law degree from Arizona State University?
Attorney Gordana Mikalacki: I was used to being at the top of my class given that I graduated summa cum laude from the Barrett Honors College as an undergraduate at Arizona State University. I thought that would continue in law school, but unbeknownst to me, everyone is bright in law school. Ha! Learning a new approach for essay writing was difﬁcult for me at ﬁrst, and required me to study more than ever before, and even hire a tutor which was incredibly humbling.
Still, this struggle taught me the importance of never giving up, and ﬁnding solutions to issues I was having with law school test taking. Making small changes paid off in dividends as I was at the bottom of my class as a 1L. Still, by my 2L year, I raised my grades signiﬁcantly and even landed a clerkship at the Arizona Court of Appeals, post-law school. There, I worked alongside my classmates who were Orders of Coif. It was incredibly rewarding knowing I came full circle throughout my law school career.
Sam: Why did you transition from being Assistant Attorney General at Arizona and partner of Rubezic Law Group to forming your own ﬁrm Elmm Law Group?
Attorney Gordana Mikalacki: Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I knew I always wanted to be my own boss and to run my own ﬁrm. Therefore, after working under three Attorney Generals in the Child Support Enforcement Section, I perfected my skillset there, and felt it was time for a new challenge where I would hone a new set of skills.
I had an opportunity to open the Rubezic Law Group, a new personal/catastrophic injury ﬁrm that catered to a niche market of former-Yugoslavians given I was ﬂuent in Serbo-Croatian. I was a co-partner at the Rubezic Law Group for approximately ﬁve years where I learned the ins & outs of personal/catastrophic injury, grew the business, garnered countless policy limit settlements, and litigated dozens of cases. Still, even in today’s modern world, much of personal/catastrophic injury is very male dominated. Essentially, I devoted so much of myself to the Rubezic Law Group, yet I was still the “woman behind the man.”
With this, I saw an opportunity to branch out on my own being one of few young, female personal/catastrophic injury attorneys in Arizona. In doing so I have a gained tremendous amount of support as people are very interested in my business model and client-approach. I found clients really gravitated towards me because I genuinely cared about their injuries, had strong attention to detail, and am very approachable making them feel comfortable with me.
Sam: You have a great background, and extensive legal experience, is there a single case that really sticks out to you? If so, why?
Attorney Gordana Mikalacki: Thank you. Many cases stick out in my mind, but one that I will never forget working on is the 47th Legislature v. Napolitano, which is an unprecedented line-item veto case argued before the Arizona Supreme Court. Essentially, the Arizona Legislature sued Arizona’s Governor Napolitano, who I happened to be working for as a legal intern at the time, arguing the Governor unconstitutionally line-item vetoed a portion of a bill. It was fascinating to work behind the scenes on this case, because I worked collaboratively with the Governor’s General Counsel and Deputy General Counsel.
I also sat in on moot court sessions with the Governor’s privately hired counsel who handled the Supreme Court oral argument. Watching the Governor’s dozens of attorneys work together on this unprecedented line-item veto issue was so incredible. I watched the push & pull involved in preparing the case for oral argument, and I will never forget the amount of teamwork that went into preparing the Governor’s case.
Sam: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been told or are willing to share for future lawyers or young people?
Attorney Gordana Mikalacki: As an Assistant Attorney General, I was reminded that prosecutors, and attorneys in general, hold a special amount of power in our community. It is important to use that power for good, not to become arrogant because of it, and to abuse it. I would share that same advice with future lawyers. Remember why you chose this profession, do not become arrogant, and do not abuse the special role you play in your community.
Sam: Thank you so much for sharing your story. Finally, where can people go to learn about your ﬁrm and follow your journey?
Attorney Gordana Mikalacki: You can follow us on Instagram @elmmlawgroup, Facebook elmmlawgroup, and www.elmmlawgroup.com is coming soon!
Disclaimer: All photos provided courtesy of Attorney Gordana Mikalacki.
NEXT: If you enjoyed this article, please read our interview with Dr. Cassie Majestic