Ashley, our receptionist and legal assistant, is a dancer. Although her dreams of a professional dance career were “shattered” after a terrible knee injury, she nevertheless still goes to classes in Manhattan. This is quite remarkable since in addition to working fulltime at the firm, she is also a part-time law student at New York Law, where she is expected to graduate in 2019 (hang in there, Ashley, you can do it!).
Ashley grew up in Palisades Park, New Jersey, and frequently came to New York City on the weekends for classes, seminars, and also for when her dad snuck her into famed music venue CBGB before it was shuttered. (“This is my daughter, she has to see this,” her dad told the bouncer.) “I was raised by punkish metal heads and hippies,” she says, laughing. “That’s how I am the way I am.”
She studied linguistics at Montclair State University. “I was focused more on the psychological aspects of language,” she says. Her thesis was on how brains acquire second languages. Her advice: don’t be a drug addict and it also helps to be younger than forty. (I really need to get a move on learning a new language!)
Throughout her undergraduate degree and law degree, she’s always worked fulltime—apart from one spectacular extended trip to England, Ireland, Canada, and the West Coast between jobs. She became interested in law after being hired to do filing at a New York law firm. She was quickly promoted to legal assistant and paralegal and worked a number of years in litigation and medical malpractice, when she decided to apply to law school.
“What do you like about law?” I ask.
“The fact that there’s more or less concrete rules or guidelines, yet there’s so many different ways to interpret it. I also like the aspect of helping people who can’t otherwise help themselves.” Her main interests are immigration and environmental law.
In her spare time—which sadly she doesn’t have much of—she likes to hang out with her dog Riley, a toy-sized yorkie (but don’t tell him that, Ashley says). Riley's dog collar shows he came from Texas but he was rescued on the streets of New Jersey. “I’d like to think he had a really cool adventure getting here,” she says. “But from the way he looked, it probably wasn’t all that fun.”
What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?
I am always incredibly inspired by people who are bold in the way that they express themselves, whether that be through words, or movement, or a paintbrush.
What turns you off?
Defeat. I understand that things in life do not always go according to your plan, and that can get incredibly disheartening, but I will never understand how some people allow themselves to be defeated.
What sound or noise do you love?
This is going to sound so silly, but I love when my dog howls.
What sound or noise do you hate?
I absolute hate listening to stray animals cry or screech at night.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I would absolutely love to own a dance studio. I know that owning a business comes with a lot of uncharted territory, but the idea of owning something that becomes a safe place for many young dancers who may have tough home lives, or be bullied in school, or whatever the case may be, is something I have always dreamt of having one day.
What is your idea of happiness?
My idea of happiness is that moment when you land in a new state, or country, or continent, and instantly becoming overwhelmed with excitement and curiosity.
Where would you like to live?
As much as I love New York City, I would love to live near a mountain range on the West Coast. I just love the peaceful scenery, and the smell of crisp, mountain air.
What is your favorite film?
I have so many favorites, but I think one film (as well as the book!) that really resonated was Into the Wild.
Who are your heroes in real life?
As cliché as it sounds, my parents. My mother taught me to always be a strong, independent woman in a world where we are sometimes not treated equally. She also taught me to read anything and everything! My father, on the other hand, taught me that the best music comes from decades ago, and to always be comfortable in your own skin because your differences and quirkiness are what make you, you.
What would your last meal be?
My last meal would definitely be my grandmother’s ropa vieja. It’s a prominent Cuban dish that is basically shredded meat over rice, but the way my grandmother makes it is indescribable. I never get tired of eating it.
What do you hate the most?
I hate watching innocent children, animals, anyone really, be bullied or hurt by someone.
What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?
I come from a family of amazing artists, so I do wish I was gifted with a better ability to draw and paint than I have now.
How do you wish to die?
I wish to die peacefully, perhaps in my sleep. I would also like to be surrounded by loved ones, as I am sure your last moments on earth are terrifying.
What is your present state of mind?
I am incredibly sad and a bit angry over the current state of our country, but I am also excited to see my generation stand up for their beliefs. It’s an amazing thing to be able to live through such a monumental time.
What are you thinking of right now?
What is your proudest achievement in life?
My proudest achievement in life was winning dance nationals during my senior year of high school. I had worked so hard all season and had sustained a partially torn ACL that I wasn’t supposed to dance on as much as I was, but I didn’t let that stop me. Instead, I doubled up on the physical therapy and ice and finished my last competitive dance season strong. I will never forget that feeling of standing on the stage knowing I had just given it my all and realizing that all the tears, sweat, blood, and pain had paid off, and I had just proven myself to be one of the best.
What do you most like about the age we live in?
I appreciate how easy it is to get to friends and loved ones throughout the world by way of almost any form of transportation.
What is the biggest risk youʼve ever taken?
When I quit my last job to travel.
What is a book or movie that has changed your perspective on life?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
I remember being no more than maybe three or four, and my grandfather having potted plants that hung from the tops of his porch. He used to carry me in his arms and sing and dance and bang on the plants like drums. I used to laugh and laugh and laugh, and even today I still laugh when I see potted plants hanging from someone’s porch.