With her father a well-known, successful attorney, Alexa D’Amato had a tough act to follow — but as the “second generation” at the D’Amato Law Firm in Linwood, she’s distinguishing herself with her own thoughtful approach to law, her pro-bono activities, and her deep devotion to a marvelous, extended family.
Your firm’s Web site features a cool photo that captures Atlantic City’s energy.
We’re very proud of the D’Amato family heritage in Atlantic City. My dad’s uncle, Skinny D’Amato, owned the 500 Club, and my pop-pop Willy was manager. My dad even worked there when he was of age. I’ve been blessed with an amazing family today, as well: my husband Alex and my son, with a second child on the way — and my parents, sisters, grandmother, and aunts and uncles. We’re all very close and stay active in the community.
How’s your firm evolving now that you’re on board?
We joke that no one gets away without a hug, but that’s not so far from true. My dad, Paul D’Amato, has practiced over 35 years, and I’ve practiced since 2001. I’ve known our associate Michael Gibson since he dated my sister Ava in grade school, and we have a new associate, Dominic DePamphilis, whom I’ve known since he was in school with my sister Ashley. My mom Sandy is our CFO, and our paralegal, Rose, has been with us forever. Our cases run the gamut, from the Tropicana garage collapse to an individual whose ATV blew up. The best part is, each of us loves what we’re doing and we love working together.
People don’t always think “love” and “compassion” when they think “attorney.”
Recovering money at the end may be our main job, but it’s not necessarily the most important thing we do. We help people who are hurt, some catastrophically, and sometimes we’re part of their lives for years. They need people who can talk about what they’re going through, face-to-face. Meeting with a family who just lost a loved one, or with someone who was just injured — that first visit is tough, but we find ways to help maybe take a little of the pain away, and that is extremely rewarding.
You’re achieving a high profile at a young age. How will you keep it fresh?
Loving what you do is at the heart of it. Work isn’t just something that I do in order to enjoy my weekends. And I love my home life with a passion, too. They feed one another, and that only makes you more happy and energetic. Also, the law is always changing. We’re always getting new cases, new clients, new issues, and sometimes even working to make new law.
Tell me about the American Association for Justice (AAJ).
I’m involved with its New Lawyers’ Division, with about 5,000 members nationwide, and I’m actually about to take over as chair. Through them, I’m also involved in “People Over Profits,” a group that works to get the message out about proposed laws that might increase corporate profits without looking out for the rights of people who are involved.
You also support the Atlantic County Women’s Center.
The center is phenomenal, helping abused and battered clients get their lives back together. They’re also very involved with Shore Memorial Hospital — my family just had a fundraiser last night for the hospital, which is trying to build a pediatric emergency room. And, two years ago, the center actually convinced me to take a role in the Vagina Monologues, at a fundraiser at Resorts. Very humorous! Through AAJ, I’ve also done service projects in downtown Miami, and with Habitat for Humanity at Musicians’ Village in New Orleans, building houses for musicians who lost their homes during Katrina.
You maintain a very positive view of human nature and the legal process.
I trust people will basically do the right thing, tell the truth, say, when a judge asks whether they’ll be able to fairly judge a case. I recognize that many people get out of jury duty, but that means the process winds up with jurors who are there to be fair and to make a difference. Granted, you can never look into somebody’s heart and see if they have hidden prejudices, but our system really is the best tool to reach a fair result.
Any thought of entering politics?
Public service is important, but I saw what my dad went through trying to make a difference politically, and I think I’ll stay out of that. He went to Trenton as a Republican, but he supported whatever he believed would best protect peoples’ rights. The Democrats would say he was just “spying,” and the Republicans would say “don’t side with the Democrats.” The most important thing, of course, is to walk on the right side of an issue, making a difference even if it’s just for a few people, and I’m already in places where I can do that.