Little Girl Grows Up to Become Name Partner at Law Firm That Represented Her Family

News • January 4, 2023

What You Need to Know

  • Lawyer Diane Cardoso is elevated to name partner at a firm that represented her family while she was in elementary school.
  • The attorney who represented her family, Lawrence Brady Jr., obtained a $750,000 award and kept in touch with Cardoso.
  • Cardoso is bullish about the future of smaller law firms if they network and embrace technology.

Celebrating her elevation to name partner at Kearny, New Jersey-based personal injury boutique Brady, Reilly & Cardoso, attorney Diane Cardoso says her relationship with the firm began when she was still in elementary school.

Cardoso left the 87-lawyer Javerbaum Wurgaft Hicks Kahn Wikstrom & Sinins in Springfield, New Jersey, on Oct. 15 to join her present firm, which has four attorneys. She became a name partner Jan. 1.

Cardoso says an early interaction with a personal injury lawyer at the firm where she now works left her impressed at his advocacy and concern.

The daughter of immigrants from Portugal, Cardoso was 5 years old in 1984 when her father was killed by a drunken driver. Her mother retained an attorney named Lawrence Brady Jr., who obtained a $750,000 recovery from the driver, a liquor store and a restaurant that were accused of over-serving him.

Brady kept in touch with Cardoso and helped her establish a career and build legal skills, which prompted her desire  to join the law office that he founded.

‘First Profession That I Saw Help Anyone’

Cardoso’s father, Antonio, who had his own construction company, was one of three people killed in the crash. A construction worker who was standing with him on the sidewalk outside a construction site was also killed, as was a woman who was in another vehicle.

As the case progressed, Cardoso and her sister often attended court hearings because her mother, Teresa, had no babysitter, so she brought the girls along for court hearings.

By the time the case resolved, Cardoso was 9, and she was attending an allocation hearing when the judge asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. She responded that she wanted to work in a courtroom.

“I really meant it. I wanted to be a trial attorney. It was the first profession that I saw help anyone. I saw that Mr. Brady, to me, as a child, was like our hero because he was fighting what  was unjust,” Cardoso said.

Brady, mindful of Cardoso’s statement to the judge about her career aspirations, stayed in touch. While she was an undergraduate, Brady hired her to work in his law office, and ensured she rotated through a variety of assignments such as answering interrogatories and handling medical records intake.

“It was a way to get to know the law and know that I really wanted to get into this. It was a great primer,” Cardoso said.

Importance of Small Firms

The award from the accident helped Cardoso, her mother and sister to pay for education expenses. Her mother, who was a teacher in Portugal, used some of the suit’s proceeds  to obtain a master’s degree in education, and she went on to a successful career as a special education teacher.

The suit also helped pay for college for Cardoso and her sister, and for Cardoso’s law school tuition. Unlike most of her classmates, she graduated law school without student loan debt.

After graduating law school in 2004 and serving a clerkship, Cardoso briefly worked at a Newark firm, Sinins & Bross, before joining Brady’s firm, where she stayed two years, trying her own personal injury cases and obtaining some impressive verdicts.

In 2007, when Sinins’ firm merged with Javerbaum Wurgaft, she joined that firm in hopes of broadening her experience. Cardoso was the first woman to join the firm, which had nine attorneys when she started, and later she became the first woman partner.

Cardoso said she was happy at Javerbaum Wurgaft, but joined her present firm because she was eager to work with its leader, Kathleen Reilly, and to be an owner of the firm. The firm has kept Brady’s name in its title, although he retired about 10 years ago.

Cardoso says she disagrees with those commentators who are predicting the demise of the small firm.

“I think if small firms continue to advance technologically and continue to foster relationships with other attorneys and associations, I think they can survive and succeed. Those smaller firms that resist technology, those are the firms that are going to have issues,” she said.

Losing her father at an early age gives Cardoso a perspective that helps her relate to clients in a way that other personal injury lawyers can not, she said. She jokes that her situation reminds her of old television commercials for the Hair Club for Men, where a pitchman said, “I’m not only the president, I’m a client.”

“It’s true: I’m in a leadership role, but I can tell them the perspective of what it’s like to be a client,” Cardoso said. “And I can assure them that I am going to treat them just the same way I would want my family to be treated.”