Andrea Tarshus ‘11 has a knack for making connections.
Currently, Tarshus owns and operates Tarshus Law Firm in Buffalo, New York, and specializes in helping small businesses with a variety of business legal issues, including contracts, leases, terms and conditions, employment agreements, and more.
Going into business for herself started through a series of strategic steps, starting with her first job out of Albany Law School.
“You can transfer the skillset that you learned at Albany Law into your professional career immediately, even if it’s not in the area of law you intended to practice,” she said
After graduation, she was looking for jobs without a clear sense of what she wanted to do. She came across a job posting for an emergency room manager in Western New York. The description called for someone with a J.D. and a logical mindset.
“I applied on a leap of faith. I knew there was room to grow and I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to have the opportunity to see where my career might be able to open doors,” she said.
But when she started the position, the company had just been acquired and the role was completely different than she had expected. It was more of a human resources job that involved executing more than 100 employment contracts as part of the acquisition.
The role brought in several skills she learned in law school, including contracts and business law, as well as counseling and negotiating with employees who had to sign new contracts or risk not having a job.
She knew it wasn’t a forever fit, but still wanted to try and use the role as a learning experience. She asked the CEO of the company if he’d be willing to meet with her every few months for a performance review. His entrepreneurial success was an inspiration, she said.
Each time they met, Tarshus shared the ways she was able to save the company money—through a new benefits package, for example. She was able to show that she was hungry for more work, and when the CEO eventually left, he asked her to join him as his general counsel when he started his own company.
“I didn't go into business law thinking I wanted to be a business attorney, but I knew that I really liked entrepreneurship and I liked exciting projects and change. And I liked being thrown into the deep end and figuring things out,” she said.
This next role was a high-pressure one. She was traveling often and her livelihood was dependent on this brand-new company’s success, but she was learning fast. Eventually, she split off from that role and started helping another company get to the point of being publicly acquired. Eventually, the larger company had enough counsel that she wasn’t needed anymore.
“At this point, I didn’t know how I was going to keep going,” she said.
She decided to take the jump into business for herself and establish her own law practice. She reached out to some former business connections and took them on as clients for their legal needs and advice.
“I was diligent and relentless and turning things around as quickly as possible and doing quality work and word spread. It's now a really cool thing that I built on my own just because I refused to give up,” she said.
One thing that has helped her grow her business is networking, especially through the strong Albany Law School alumni network.
“I think that the friendships you forge are the kind of friendships that stick with you and your career, and they're really important to your long-term success,” she said. “I also got to know so many faculty members—even professors I didn’t have classes with— who are wonderful mentors. I still keep in touch with several of them and they've been able to help me as my career grows.”
In addition to career networking, she has built a social and philanthropic network in the Buffalo area over the years. She moved to Western New York without knowing many people and has found that despite the brutal winters, the Buffalo Niagara area is a place of warm and inviting people.
She volunteers with Kevin Guest House, a home for patients and families to stay while they receive medical care, and serves on the board of directors.
“The people staying at Kevin Guest House are sick and tired. Their family members are sick and tired. They're exhausted from spending all day in a hospital for days or weeks or even months on end. They just want to come back to the house and feel at home,” she said.
Through her network, she has been able to make an impact at Kevin Guest House.
During the height of the pandemic, she heard about a bakery that was struggling to stay open. She organized a fundraiser for Kevin Guest House to sell cookie decorating kits and raised $5,000—enough to cover the cost of an apartment stay for an entire year.
“Now, whoever stays there doesn't have to worry about paying for their night's stay. We were able to do that through bringing joy to others in a difficult time through making cookies,” she said. “ This is something a person can do to make such a difference. You don't necessarily have to be writing checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars to be meaningful to a charity. You just have to be willing to donate your time.”