In honor of International Women’s Day, Canal Alliance has chosen to elevate the stories and perspectives of some of the powerful and inspiring women in our community. From policy to education, and advocacy to community policing, Hispanic women are changing the face of leadership in Marin County.
Q&A with Anna Pletcher
Employer: O’Melveny & Myers
Anna Pletcher is a partner at O’Melveny & Myers, a global law firm, where she represents clients on a broad range of antitrust issues, as well as sensitive white collar and corporate investigations. Prior to joining O’Melveny, Anna served for ten years at the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division, where she was Assistant Chief of the San Francisco Office and a Trial Attorney. Anna also served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Major Crimes unit in San Francisco. Anna served as an Adjunct Professor at Berkeley Law and UC Hastings.
Anna ran for Marin County District Attorney in 2018, and has held many volunteer positions in her local community, including Chair of the Marin Women’s Commission.
Before entering public service, Anna spent three years as an investment banking analyst at JP Morgan Chase.
Canal Alliance: How did you come to your current career?
Anna Pletcher: I started my professional career as an investment banker on Wall Street. I was the first in my family to graduate from college, and although my parents worked hard to provide for my brother, sister, and me, money was always an issue growing up. So it was important to me to find a career that would allow me to pay off my student loans, become financially stable, and learn about business.
But I had always felt drawn to public service. My family had given me the gift of a great education and I felt a responsibility to give back. I decided to go to law school so I could fight the systemic injustices that prevent so many from achieving their full potential.
I loved law school. I knew immediately that I had found the right field for me. When I graduated, I worked with a judge for a year then got a job as a federal prosecutor in San Francisco, focusing on white collar crime. I stayed in that job for ten years and enjoyed it very much. I rose up the ranks to be Assistant Chief of the office.
At the same time, I was deeply involved in my local community. I served on the Marin Women’s Commission, volunteered with a youth restorative justice program, worked on a sea level rise commission, and served on the PTA. When the opportunity arose to run for Marin County District Attorney, I took it. It was a privilege to run for office. Even though I did not win (I fell short by less than 400 votes!), I am proud of the work the campaign did to change the conversation about criminal justice in Marin.
Having been a prosecutor and worked with a judge, I am excited to now be seeing the law from a different angle – as defense attorney at a major law firm. However, I am still involved in politics and volunteer work and will always be committed to making my community a better place.
CA: How do you define a leader?
AP: In the legal world, attorneys often rise to leadership positions based on their technical skill. Lawyering is a craft. Good leaders will put in the time to develop that expertise and get the best results for their clients, whether in the public or private sector.
But a good leader is more than just a good lawyer. She must have integrity and the highest ethical standards. She must be positive and resilient, empathetic, and courageous. She must inspire those around her to be better than they thought they could be.
CA: How has your personal history influenced your leadership style?
AP: My grandmother and I shared a room when I was growing up. She told me the struggles that she went through growing up in Puerto Rico. Her family could not afford to keep her, so they sent her away when she was just ten to be a house servant. She found herself pregnant as a teenager and eventually married, but her husband was abusive. She took her three children, including my mother, and fled to New York City in the 1950s to start a new life.
On the other side of the family, my grandfather traced his roots back to John Hart, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. My grandfather was a career Marine and fought in the Pacific in World War II. My father was drafted for Vietnam, but stood true to his principles and was discharged as a conscientious objector.
Only in America could two people from disparate cultures and histories come together and make a family. My parents found each other and scraped up every penny they could find to buy a house where their children would be safe and could get a top education. My mother was a secretary at the local college and eventually became a career counselor. My father learned how to be a dental technician and started his own company making teeth.
My parents never went to college, but they valued education. When I was accepted to Yale, it was a huge achievement for the family. My brother and sister followed me there. When I went to law school, I was the first in my family to have a college education and a professional degree.
I carry this history with me always. I am inspired my grandmother’s courage, my grandfather’s bravery, and my parents’ unconditional love. I find strength in being part of a mixed-race, mixed-class family. I feel as comfortable in the boardroom as in the bodega and I can use that flexibility to build bridges between those worlds. I am grateful to stand on the shoulders of those who came before me and I hope that I can be that support for others.
CA: Have you had mentors or guides that you have looked up to as you have come into your current role or industry? How have they impacted your outlook on leadership?
AP: I have had several mentors who have taught and inspired me. There are three in my legal career who stand out. The first is the federal district court judge for whom I clerked when I graduated from law school. I learned from him the importance of listening carefully to diverse viewpoints, considering them with an open mind, and thinking independently.
The second is a federal prosecutor who was nearing the end of his long career when I was just beginning. He took me under his wing and taught me how to be a lawyer. I learned from him that a leader lifts others up by giving them opportunities to shine and setting them up for success.
The third is the former chief of the DOJ office in San Francisco where I worked for many years. I learned from him to lead by example, with firmness and compassion. I learned the importance of transparency and accountability. And supporting my coworkers in times of success and failure.
CA: What legacy would you like to create for other Latinas who may look to follow in your footsteps or use your leadership as an example for their own careers?
AP: I hope that I can inspire other Latinas to be ambitious and courageous. No path is easy; I have had many failures in my career. But that is how we become stronger and more effective leaders — we try, we fail, we learn, we adjust, we try again. To other Latinas looking to advance their careers, I say build a support network and go for your dreams.
CA: How does partnering/working with Canal Alliance to advance our mission fit into the legacy that you want to leave in your field?
AP: I am proud to support the work of Canal Alliance. Canal Alliance provides critical services for immigrants. By offering a safety net – a place to go for everything from education and job training to voting rights – Canal Alliance allows recent immigrants to become more engaged and effective members of our community. This, in turn, makes the American Dream more accessible to all.