When this series of interviews first began on the cusp of 2018, we reflected on the momentous events of 2017. It was a year that began with women taking to the streets to show solidarity for one another in protesting for equal rights, and ended with a multi-industry whistleblowing initiative to stop sexual harassment in the workplace. As we move forward in 2018, it seems like this will be a year of no excuses. The first six months have been a whirlwind of change in our society with the women in the U.S. proclaiming #TimesUp—we must make a change, no more excuses. In our series featuring powerful women litigators, we thought no one embodied the empowered rationale of “no excuses” better than nationally recognized attorney Ariana J. Tadler, a managing partner of Milberg Tadler Phillips Grossman LLP (“Milberg Tadler”) in New York City.
Ariana’s resume speaks for itself, with a laundry list of groundbreaking achievements for a woman who has spent her life striving for excellence and making no excuses. Ariana is not only a managing partner of a law firm synonymous with national class action recoveries, but is also one of the nation’s leading authorities on electronic discovery and the founder and chair of the firm’s E-Discovery Practice Group. Ariana is also a founding principal of Meta-e Discovery LLC, an independent data hosting, management, and consulting company. The business was established and built by Ariana at Milberg LLP and then spun off in 2015. She has also been appointed by United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts to serve on the Federal Civil Rules Advisory Committee. When asked where she gets her drive to propel herself through glass ceilings and spearhead achievements, Ariana spoke about her childhood and a teenage trip to Haiti that changed her life.
At 13-years-old, Ariana and her family traveled to Haiti where she came to the realization that she needed to make a difference in other people’s lives. The country that Ariana saw in 1981 was a very dark place—she observed acts such as women borrowing other women’s children so they could beg on the street just to survive. This sparked an intellectual and civic-minded fire in Ariana’s mind, continually stoked by her parents who not only encouraged, but demanded, that their children be ready to discuss the latest world events at mealtimes. Dinner, Ariana recalled, required you to have on your intellectual boxing gloves; there was no excuse to be unprepared for a debate and a discussion of current events with not only her parents, but also the wide range of guests who came from all walks of life. To show the full extent of the intellectual curiosity that was cultivated in her childhood home, Ariana points to her father: a stock broker turned entrepreneur who retired at age 50 and decided to go to law school just one year into retirement, just after Ariana had begun her own legal career. Clearly, Ariana’s drive to work and achieve success has substantial genetic roots.
While it may be tempting to believe that Ariana rose to the top of her field with few set backs, that would be the easy way out—Ariana is not a woman who takes the easy way out. As a 1L at Fordham Law School, Ariana thought she had a solid plan in place for the future. She had accepted a summer associate position at a New York boutique firm that would likely lead to a permanent hire once she graduated. However, life had other plans in store for her: the firm disbanded soon after her first summer, and the large defense firm where she worked during her second year to pay for tuition imploded, which left Ariana once again looking for a second year summer position. While some would have focused on their perceived bad luck, Ariana’s mantra of no excuses led to a search for the best solution to her situation, which brought about a major turning point in her legal career. She found herself at a small plaintiffs’ class action firm where she ended up staying for five productive and enjoyable years.
In March 1997, Ariana and her husband welcomed their first son Carter into the world, and in September she joined the firm that would continue to be her home more than twenty years later, Milberg LLP. Being successful as a working mother was never a question to Ariana; she knew what she was capable of. However, upon returning to work after maternity leave, Ariana was faced with a firm that, back then, didn’t quite know how to manage a modern working mother, while she yearned for greater resources and flexibility to excel in her career and be a good mom. A long-term assignment to a document review led Ariana to look for a new opportunity. As luck would have it, three attorneys, who had graduated law school at about the same time as Ariana, left the then-Milberg firm, creating a vacancy in the New York office. Ariana leaped at the opportunity to join the progressive firm. Milberg was the perfect fit for Ariana and she thrived there. Ariana’s career soared to new heights at Milberg LLP where she became the only female on the Executive Committee. A few among a large contingent of accomplishments in the arena of plaintiff’s representation include:
- Plaintiff’s Executive Committee, In Re: Yahoo! Inc. Customer Data Security Breach Litigation
- Plaintiff’s Steering Committee, In Re: Target Corporation Customer Data Security Breach Litigation
- Plaintiff’s Executive Committee, In Re: Intuit Data Litigation
- Lead Counsel, In Re: ConAgra Foods Inc. and In Re: General Mills, Inc. Kix Cereal Litigation
- Lead Counsel, Ener1 v. PricewaterhouseCoopers
- Special Discovery Counsel, Republic of Colombia et al v. Diageo North America, Inc.
- Plaintiff’s Liaison Counsel, In re: Initial Public Offering Securities Litigation.
In January 2018, a new firm was launched as part of a strategic partnership—Milberg Tadler Phillips Grossman LLP—one of the few renowned plaintiffs’ firms with a female named partner. In just the first quarter of 2018, Ariana was appointed to the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee in In re: Equifax Inc. Consumer Data Security Breach Litigation which involves the hacking of more than 145 million individuals’ data.
Ariana has applied the notion of “no excuses” to every stage of her journey towards her current role as Managing Partner of Milberg Tadler. When asked about inequality and sexism in the legal profession, Ariana agrees that the law—particularly litigation—can be a “boys’ club.” But rather than feel overwhelmed by the status quo, Ariana has chosen to demand her seat at the proverbial table. She admits that there have been times when she has felt uninvited, but she strongly believes that it is incumbent upon women to “lean in” and be a part of the conversation to counteract the “good old boys” network. She points out that 100 years ago there were hardly any female attorneys in the United States and now 50% of law school students are women—if we persist, things will change.
One of the things Ariana loves most about the law is that it is always evolving. Women, she stresses, need to band together and continue to assert themselves to assure their place of importance in the legal industry and beyond. For example, once at a conference, Ariana noticed that the sexes had been separated for outdoor activities. The men were set to hit the golf course. The female organizers suggested kayaking as the alternative. Ariana thought, “How can we possibly network while kayaking?!” Ariana encouraged the women to think more broadly and to take a chance: “Let’s go golfing,” she said. “You might win or lose; either way, there’s a conversation to be had—and likely one to be remembered.” This is the attitude that more women in the legal profession need to have, she believes. If you want to see a change, go ahead and make it—don’t wait for an invitation that might never come. Nothing is easy, and things worth having are rarely just handed out. As unfair as it may be, women in the legal field need to fight to be seen and heard. It was true then; and, yes, it’s true now. “Find your voice,” she says.
Ariana says that in order to maintain healthy relationships in their personal lives, a fulfilling and successful career, and find some time for themselves, women need to understand that it won’t be easy; it will take hard work. Time management and prioritization are key. She believes that the very hurdles that women must overcome in order to keep all of their plates in the air are what make women tenacious fighters for justice for their clients, making the whole juggling act worth it.
Nurturing and maintaining relationships—both personal and professional—are also critical. Ariana makes a point of being “present” physically and, when on the road, virtually, thanks to technology, with her husband, David, and her two sons, Carter and Decker. She strives to maintain solid relationships with the lawyers with whom she has worked over the course of her career, including as far back as the very beginning of her career, i.e., the lawyers from the plaintiffs’ firm where she started her career and who were responsible for first training her as a litigator and to whom she is grateful.
Her parting words of advice for female attorneys struggling to make it work is to keep fighting on. “This is 2018. For those of us who have literally carved out our own seats at the table, we are forces to be reckoned with. We aren’t going to get out of the way because you stick your elbows out; we have elbows—and brains, and drive—too.”
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