As a refugee who arrived from Bosnia and Herzegovina just before starting high school, Narcisa Przulj knows what it is like to face challenges.
“Being somebody from another country and of a different culture and just being a woman in the legal profession, I think that the combination of those factors has definitely given me a unique perspective and has helped me understand some of those issues,” said Przulj, a native of Sarajevo, who learned English after coming to the United States.
Now a shareholder for Sandberg, Phoenix & von Gontard who specializes in employment law, she has handled defense work for everything from overtime claims and discrimination to ADA and FMLA casework. She has distinguished herself in the courtroom with able representation of Fortune 100 companies and outside of it with advice and training on how to keep employers out of legal trouble.
A graduate of Saint Louis University School of Law, Przulj is active with her firm’s diversity and inclusion committee. She also helped to spearhead her firm’s women’s committee and still co-chairs the group, which promotes inclusiveness for female attorneys.
Her work in the larger community has included an array of concerns, among them the University of Missouri-St. Louis International Affairs Advisory Committee, the International Institute’s Development Corporation and the United Way Multicultural Leadership Society. She’s also a former board president of St. Louis Artworks.
“Always a supporter for what’s right, Narcisa embodies the values of our firm,” writes her nominator, “and [she] promotes a culture of diversity and inclusiveness in all she does.”
Przulj said she originally got into the profession because of the example set by her uncle.
“I remember being a kid and him staying up late trying to work out a problem for somebody he knew. I really respected what he did and who he was as a person,” she recalled. “I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer as a result.”
She believes that inclusiveness isn’t just a one-dimensional dynamic. It encompasses racial, cultural, gender and socio-economic boundaries.
“I think what makes a firm diverse and inclusive is a firm that not only strives to have members who are diverse and inclusive,” she said. “I think it is one that recognizes that we are all different and we all bring different perspectives and allows those different voices to be heard.”
That means ensuring that everyone feels welcome in an environment where they are comfortable being themselves.
“I think it first starts with recruiting and making sure that opportunities are being provided during that process,” she said. “I think another part is that you can’t stop there. There has to be support and understanding of the unique challenges faced by different groups throughout the process and throughout the law firm.”
From starting as a summer associate to making partner, Przulj knows that a firm must maintain an ecosystem where everyone can thrive, regardless of background.
She said she’s happy to work at a firm that truly respects diversity, and she believes that, in her experience, instances of discriminatory treatment in the legal field are becoming rarer with each year.
“I would say that, as more time passes, those experiences seem to occur less and less,” she said.