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  • August 18, 2021

    Young Lawyer Tatiana Shirasaki on Paying it Forward

    Tatiana Shirasaki has been a lawyer in two countries – in her native Brazil, and now, in the U.S. As the 2021 Young Lawyers Division's Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year, Shirasaki is dedicated to paying it forward.

    Shannon Green

    Shirasaki (right) celebrates becoming a Wisconsin lawyer with U.W. law professor Asifa Quraishi-Landes

    Tatiana Shirasaki, the Young Lawyers Division 2021 Outstanding Young Lawyer, says that she accomplished so much thanks to the guidance of many mentors along the way. In this photo from 2018, Shirasaki (right) celebrates becoming a Wisconsin lawyer with U.W. law professor Asifa Quraishi-Landes, one of her mentors in law school.

    Aug. 18, 2021 – It isn’t an easy task to start over, but those who know her say that Mayville attorney Tatiana Shirasaki has more than enough energy and strength to overcome any obstacle before her.

    A native of São Paulo, Brazil, Shirasaki worked as a television journalist, a teacher, a wedding photographer, and a lawyer. In Wisconsin, Shirasaki is a public defender and continues her passion for photography.

    Shirasaki is the State Bar of Wisconsin 2021 Young Lawyers Division’s Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year. The award is given to a young lawyer who has made an impact in their practice area, and in service to the State Bar of Wisconsin and to the community.

    That’s exactly what Shirasaki represents, says her friend and colleague Vanessa Avila, an immigration attorney with the Community Immigration Law Center in Madison, who nominated Shirasaki for the award.

    “I cannot speak enough about the intelligent, passionate, and hardworking attorney Tati exemplifies every day of her life,” Avlia said. “Whether she is calling me to consult on the immigration consequences of accepting certain pleas, to vent about a hard day, or to celebrate a victory for her clients, Tati is what the Young Lawyers Division Award seeks to recognize in our profession.”

    Tatiana Shirasaki, second from right, poses with her family

    Tatiana Shirasaki, second from right, poses with her family, from left: son Henry, 12; husband Dave Krahn; and daughter Natalia, 14. Photo by Renee Hattaway.

    From São Paulo to Mayville

    Shirasaki’s path to becoming a Wisconsin lawyer was a long one (see “10 Questions: Tatiana Shirasaki: On Starting Over,” in Wisconsin Lawyer magazine). After moving to Mayville in 2002 (she had met her future husband, Dave, in Wisconsin in 2001), she became a Wisconsin lawyer in 2018 through the U.W. Law School’s LLM program.

    She earned the degree after working third shift at Kwik Trip and continuing her work as a photographer, before heading back to law school in 2013 with the support of her family.

    Fluent in Spanish as well as English and Portuguese, Shirasaki first worked as a Wisconsin lawyer at the Immigrant Justice Clinic at the U.W. Law School, a “dream job” that allowed her to provide free legal services to Wisconsin’s underserved immigrant community.

    In 2020, the added challenge of COVID-19 didn’t slow her down. In the midst of the pandemic, Tatiana Shirasaki joined the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office (SPD), first in Fond du Lac, and now in Dodge County.

    Tatiana Shirasaki poses with her friend and colleague, Vanessa Avila

    Tatiana Shirasaki poses with her friend and colleague, Vanessa Avila, during a photography assignment for Wisconsin Lawyer magazine in April 2021. The photos are used in the article “What Brings You Joy? Taking Time for Self-care,” in the May 2021 issue, and includes the cover photo.

    More about Tatiana Shirasaki

    Driven by Passion and Commitment

    As a public defender, Shirasaki zealously serves her clients and advocates for an effective and fair criminal justice system, says Avila. “She is passionate about assisting underrepresented groups, especially those that do not understand the English language. She makes it her mission to ensure Hispanic clients understand the whole legal process by speaking to them in their native language.”

    Shirasaki also volunteers with the State Bar's Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program (WisLAP)​, helping her colleagues with mental health and other issues. In addition to her many accomplishments in the legal profession, Shirasaki also volunteers with the State Bar’s High School Mock Trial program, is a board member of the U.W. Law School’s Economic Justice Institute, serves on the school board in Mayville, mentors Hispanic students interested in law school, and serves in her local Rotary Club.

    As much as Shirasaki has accomplished in the legal profession, “she outdoes herself in the personal sphere, where she is an even better friend, wife, and mother,” Avila said.

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    Tatiana Shirasaki, the Young Lawyers Division 2021 Outstanding Young Lawyer, calls her cat – adopted in 2020 – Gatinha (“little female cat” in Portuguese), although her official name is Meynard.

    A Key to Accomplishment: Mentoring

    “Mentoring is key to everything that I have accomplished,” Shirasaki said, thanks to those willing to “extend a hand and have conversations.”

    Shannon Green Shannon Green is communications writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin, Madison. She can be reached by email or by phone at (608) 250-6135.

    From gaining an understanding of the legal profession in the U.S. and getting her law degree in Wisconsin, to becoming a presenter for groups like the Oxford Consortium for Human Rights, to Shirasaki’s current position as public defender, mentors have been key to her career path. “I am very lucky to have great mentors,” Shirasaki said.

    She thanks those who helped her by mentoring others. “I have a lot to pay forward, and I gladly and freely pay it forward,” she said. “I love to guide and support new students applying to law school, law students taking the bar exam, new attorneys interested in immigration law or who want to become public defenders.”

    So how does one get or become a mentor? “Just ask, and be ready to offer. A new world of opportunities might be waiting for you!” she says.

    Tatiana Shirasaki as a news reporter with TV Globo Brasil

    In this image from 2000, Tatiana Shirasaki works in Brazil on-air as a news reporter with TV Globo Brasil.

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