Faith in the Future

On the job with Amira Fox, chief assistant state attorney

In her role as chief assistant state attorney,
 Amira Fox is second in command in the
 office that prosecutes every state law
 criminal violation that passes through Collier and four neighboring counties—some 100,000 cases a year. Her esteemed (and action-packed) position is the
 culmination of almost 30 years of public and private law practice. But this native of Alexandria, Virginia, and onetime psychology major wasn’t on track for a legal career until her junior year of college, when a dispute over a television she’d bought piqued her interest in contracts.

What is that appeals to you about the law?

In college, I realized I enjoyed being out speaking to people, but in law school [at The George Washington University, in D.C.], I made the Moot Court Board, which rewards excellence in oral advocacy. That’s when I knew I loved standing up and arguing cases.

Is there any crossover between psychology and the law, do you think?

After working for 10 years in this office as an assistant state attorney, I went into private practice for family and criminal law. On that side of things, there’s definitely crossover in terms of handling people and understanding how they work. It helps to know how to speak to people in order to get them to relate to you, and to trust you to represent them properly.

You’re back on the government side of law. Is that a good place to be for women?

There were no hardships for me being a woman, either in government or in private practice. I was recently looking around the room in a supervisor’s meeting and saw that we are almost evenly split between men and women managers in our circuit, which is wonderful. It brings a balance of the very best in personalities and characteristics. I try to mentor both male and female attorneys just coming on as assistant state attorneys or managers; I’m always interested in anyone who chooses to go that path.

Is there one lesson you think is especially important to instill in mentees?

I like to focus on the fact that no matter how big the obstacles thrown in your path, you have to try your best to conquer them and never, ever give up. Everyone’s had disappointments, from something as simple as losing a trial, to huge, like losing someone you love. I’ve had huge obstacles, too, and persevered, and conquered. I’m a breast cancer survivor—I’m celebrating 15 years cancer free. And my youngest son is a cancer survivor; he was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was 9 years old.

It’s incredibly difficult to battle cancer yourself, but it’s heart wrenching and frightening to have your child go through it. Watching all the caretakers at the hospital who bring your child through [the experience], you find that there are really good things about other people. Then you watch your child have to learn to write again, walk again, learn the multiplication tables again, and all that gives you faith in the future.