Elaine A. Rocha ’98: A Lifelong Advocate Turned Litigator Keeps Seton Hall Law Connections Close
“I was always a practical kid,” Elaine Rocha explains as she traces her path to a legal career. “My mother wanted her daughters to get an education and have a career, which for me meant I would choose between becoming a doctor or a lawyer.”
An older cousin who was studying law inspired her, and her realization that she was a “natural advocate for the underdogs” strengthened her resolve. She explained, “I was always the one who stood up to the bullies.” When she was president of her senior class in high school, a dispute nearly cost a classmate his place on the wrestling team. Elaine argued his case before the School Board and he remained on the team. “If someone in my mind was being treated unfairly, I had to do something about it.” She used the same advocacy skills to mediate when she served as president of her sorority, and vice president of her class, while she attended the College of New Jersey as a full scholarship student.
Today, Elaine champions Fortune 100 clients in the realm of insurance law, having pursued her passion for litigation by taking on insurance coverage cases for three top law firms after she graduated from Seton Hall Law, and following a clerkship with New Jersey Superior Court Judge Philip M. Freedman. At AIG, Elaine serves as Division Counsel for two separate business units, where she counsels clients on all aspects of the business including underwriting, regulatory and compliance issues. She also supervises a team of attorneys who advise underwriters as they draft casualty insurance policies. Their job is to point out potential liabilities and pitfalls and help underwriters clarify the terms that will best serve their corporate clients.
Elaine learned insurance coverage law on the job, but honed her litigation skills through her coursework and participation in the Ronald J. Riccio First-Year Moot Court Competition and the Eugene Gressman Moot Court Competition. She recalls with a laugh some of the invaluable advice she received: “I tend to be a fast talker and once when I presented an opening statement at Gressman one of the volunteer judges said to me, ‘That was great, but it took all of 10 seconds to deliver.’” Schedule permitting, for the past five years Elaine has served as a volunteer judge for the Gressman competition, believing it is her responsibility to share her years of experience with the next generation of lawyers. She explains, “If I can offer some piece of constructive criticism or a piece of information that might help a student toward their future in the law, then I’m glad to do it. Besides, it’s good fun.”
Elaine’s service also extends to her participation on the Alumni Council, where she has served for many years, most recently as Co-Chair of the Special Events committee. “The Class of 1998 is extremely dedicated, and several of my classmates are on the Council. We’ve gotten to be closer over the years just from volunteering.” She attributes her positive experience as a law student to her interest in seeing the law school continue to flourish: “It was a great experience, being here, and I enjoyed the professors and over the years have gotten to know the administration. They sent me off to a great career and it’s really important to give back.”
Elaine also sees how paying it forward pays her back: “Seton Hall Law prides itself on its excellence. If the Alumni Council can help perpetuate that excellence then alumni and students alike all benefit.”
Elaine believes that keeping alumni connections is vital. “If a job or an opportunity comes across my desk, I like to recommend a Seton Hall Law classmate, and that means staying in touch is really important. I tell all alumni to come to law school events. You might connect with someone you have not seen in a while and who knows what great things can result?”