Some parents dream of their children becoming athletes, senators, or captains of industry. Lisa Damiani’s father wanted her to be a lawyer. That was not part of her plan when she graduated from Park in 1979 and headed off to New York University. She wanted to be a journalist.
Damiani stayed in New York after graduating from college and tried to make it as a journalist. But there was a gap between what she was earning as a freelance writer and what it cost to rent an apartment. Her dad had made her a standing offer that if she ever changed her mind he would provide financial help.
“So I called my father and said, ‘I want to go to law school.’ It was the happiest day of his life.”
Damiani enrolled in California Western School of Law in San Diego. She had not planned to stay in the region, nor had she pictured herself working in criminal defense. Things just worked out that way.
“When I was in law school, my criminal law teacher told me, ‘You know, Lisa, you should get into criminal defense work. It would be perfect for you.’” She saw her future as a corporate lawyer until she gave it a try. Just for fun, she says, she applied for a job working with one of San Diego’s top criminal defense attorneys, Juanita Brooks.
“I ended up getting the job with her and really started enjoying it. After I passed the bar exam they sent me for court appearances. I got addicted to that and decided that I couldn’t do anything else.”
Eventually, she started her own firm, the Damiani Law Group APC. It handles a variety of cases, including criminal and employment labor issues, and business litigation.
“Felony cases, anything from embezzlement, grand theft, financial crimes, violent crimes, allegations of domestic violence, sex offenses…The only thing I don’t handle is death penalty work because it would consume my practice and I’d have to concentrate only on death penalty cases.”
Her entrepreneurial spirit was inherited. When Damiani was in middle school her family moved from Long Island to Buffalo after her dad left a career as an aerospace engineer at Grumman to become a partner in a new bowling alley, Lancaster Lanes.
“It ended up being successful for him and he was able to send us to Park,” says Damiani, whose brother, John, was a year ahead of her.
Damiani’s class was small, about 25 students. “I had an opportunity to do whatever I wanted to do. I was a cheerleader. I was in plays. I was in sports. In my senior year, I was editor-in-chief of the yearbook.”
Damiani’s science teacher, Father Edward Lawler, was particularly memorable.
“Even though I’m not in any way involved in science, the man was just such a wonderful person. He was so loving and open, and you just felt safe with him. Any kind of issue you would have, he would be there, willing to help or talk.”
Damiani’s name has been in the national media as the legal representative for the family of James Holmes, who has been charged with the movie theater killings in Aurora, Colo. In 2012.
“My representation of the family was related to inquiries by the criminal investigators, and then responding to requests for interviews by the media, and helping guide them through the process of what is happening to their son,” Damiani said.
Damiani says she owes much of her professional success to The Park School.
“Park instilled confidence in that I could set goals, achieve them, and not be afraid to pursue those goals,” she said. “And they did it in a very welcoming environment. Park instilled in me those really important feelings of confidence,” she said. “I set a goal for myself and I reached that goal. Now I’m out of that safe environment, and in life you’re thrown into some not-so-safe and very unwelcoming environments, but you’re able to carry that with you in your core, so that regardless of where you are or what the obstacles are, you can look inside yourself and know you can do this.”