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March 01, 2011

March 2011: Cristina N. Rubke, Esq.

Attorney with disability focuses on abilities in order to sail forward.

Keeping focused is very important to Cristina N. Rubke, Esq. For her, there is a need to stay focused on both her exciting and fulfilling career as well as the needs of her clients’ businesses. For those she works with, there needs to be a focus on her abilities as a corporate attorney and not her disability. Outside of work, there is a need for her to stay focused on the sea as a sailor of a one-person boat.

Cristina was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a congenital disability that resulted in no use of her arms or legs. She attended Santa Clara University School of Law and since graduating six years ago is Of Counsel in the litigation department at Shartsis Friese LLP of San Francisco, California. At work she uses a raised desk that was built for her by one of the firm’s senior partners. She is co-chair of the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Disability Rights Committee and board member of Disability Rights Advocates of Berkley, California.

In her free time, she sails boats and is a board member of the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors. Cristina is quite involved in her maritime activities, as she recently began sailing a single-person boat on her own by simply using her chin.

Sailing a straight course is also important for Cristina with regard to her profession and her disability. As a corporate attorney, she focuses on partnerships and fiduciary issues of corporations. Her typical activities include researching and learning about her clients’ businesses, deposing parties, collecting evidence through discovery, and appearing in court. Cristina values the input from her supervisors and colleagues on her writing, which makes sure that her arguments center on the critical legal issues for winning the case.

At the same time, Cristina needs to make sure those she works with—whether in her office or in the courtroom—focus on her ability and not her disability. “I always make sure to accent my accomplishments first,” she noted, “I like to focus on how I get the job done and what I bring to the table. It’s quite easy for me to dispel any misconception that I am unable to do something—so once I demonstrate to others that I am more than competent to perform my job, their focus returns to my abilities as an attorney.” 

If you want to learn more about Cristina Rubke and her unique story, along with the stories of other attorneys with disabilities, more can be found in the ABA publication, Lawyers, Lead On: Lawyers with Disabilities Share their Insights.