March 6, 2014

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Aida Neimarlija

Finding Strength through Adversity

By Rachel Madison

March 6, 2014


Aida Neimarlija’s career path is a unique one. The 33-year-old associate at Burbidge Mitchell & Gross was born in then-Yugoslavia in 1980, but at the age of 12, her family was forced to leave after the start of the Yugoslav Wars.

Neimarlija’s family escaped to Croatia, moved to Norway and, eventually, the United States. “The opportunity to live in the United States is just out of this world,” she says. “Everybody dreamed about that. So we went to Queens, New York, where my aunt and uncle lived.”

Because no one in Neimarlija’s family could speak English, it was difficult for her parents to find a job. At 16, Neimarlija was the only person in her family who worked. After about 10 months of living in Queens, Neimarlija’s family decided it was time to move.

“We were very poor—on welfare—and people were very mean,” she says. “We wanted to go somewhere else. We heard about Utah and were told we could swim in the Great Salt Lake. Back home we’d lived close to the Adriatic Sea and we’d gone there on weekends, so we thought Utah would be perfect for us.”

Although the initial disappointment about the Great Salt Lake stung, Neimarlija’s family quickly settled into their new life in Utah. Neimarlija graduated from high school at West High and later from the University of Utah with dual bachelor’s degrees in political science and economics, a minor in German and an international relations certificate.

At that time, Neimarlija was certain she wanted to go into politics. She completed an internship with then-Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. That was when she started to think about law school. She graduated from the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law and was admitted to the bar in 2008.

During law school, Neimarlija interned at the Securities and Exchange Commission and with the Special Department for War Crimes of the Prosecutor’s Office in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. There she worked on war crimes cases that have had a significant impact on the Bosnian and international criminal law jurisprudence.

Neimarlija was also invited to get involved with the Women Lawyers of Utah during law school. “I only knew one female attorney then,” she says. “I went to a retreat in Deer Valley and there were so many women leaders there. I knew then that I had a support group.” Neimarlija now serves as the president of the Women Lawyers of Utah.

“It’s so important for parents to encourage their little girls that the [legal] business is wide open to them if they want it,” she says. “I just hope that people will hear my story about how I became an attorney and at first I didn’t even speak English. I’m not special. It’s just that so much about it is just going for it.”

Neimarlija is also an active member of the Salt Lake County Bar Association and the Utah Minority Bar Association. When she’s not working, Neimarlija enjoys traveling with her husband and taking long walks with her dogs.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping others,” she says. “There’s always an opportunity to grow and a new challenge or new type of client. It’s so wonderful to help somebody resolve a problem. This is a very good fit for me.”

 

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