Amy Garzon was ahead of schedule prepping for a test early in her first year at New York Law School. The exam would be the first testing ground for the law students to get their bearings and understand what would be expected of them over the next three years.
Garzon was sitting in her classroom, studying, and waiting for class to begin. The students heard a loud explosion, what sounded like a truck coming off a curb, or maybe a car accident. But there was something just too large and encompassing about the sound to be any of those options.
It was September 11, 2001, and Garzon was eight blocks away from the World Trade Center.
Garzon and her friend wound up essentially hitchhiking back to the Bronx. They were well on their way back home before they heard that the towers had fallen. Fortunately, they made the decision to leave immediately, or they might have been locked down near Ground Zero.
The tragic events of 9/11 had a profound effect on Garzon, now lead counsel at Wells Fargo, and her classmates, but for very different reasons. “A lot of out-of-state folks from my law class just didn’t come back,” she remembers. “I think the experience was just too much for a lot of them, so our law school class wound up being pretty small.”
Garzon, however, had the opposite reaction. The budding lawyer felt called to service. She had initially pursed a career in the FBI, but was told her she would have better odds with a JD. Garzon kicked-off what would eventually be three different government stints, first clerking for the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, then the Eastern District of New York. Then, after gaining some formative firm experience, she clerked at the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
“My role clerking for Judge Nina Gershon in the Eastern District of New York felt like it was all terrorism cases,” Garzon recollects. That included working on various issues related to Arab Bank, a civil lawsuit for terrorist financing, and a criminal trial, United States V. Siraj, where the defendant plotted for several months to detonate explosives at several locations including the 34th Street subway station at Herald Square and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
“That whole clerkship was built on issues surrounding terrorism,” she adds. “It was such a formative part of my early law school and early law career; I know it also pushed me towards the US Attorney job.”
Garzon would do incredible things with the US Attorney Office. She says it’s probably the most exciting job she will ever have. The job was all-consuming, taking up virtually any available time she had, and also time she didn’t. If the job called at one in the morning, the lawyer was ready and willing. In her own words, the lawyer just doesn’t know how to do a job halfway.
It was exhausting, it was educational, and it was ideal for Garzon, just not for other interested parties. “My husband sat me down one day and said that what we had didn’t seem much like a marriage,” she remembers. “I heard him loud and clear, and to be able to have a family and a life outside of work, I knew it was time to make a change.”
Fortunately, Garzon has found an ideal home at Wells Fargo, where she’s been for nearly eight years. It’s sophisticated work that seems to change every day. If you’ve read about it in a newspaper, there’s a good chance it’s come across her desk.
The lawyer has worked on operational risk, internal investigations, regulatory enforcement, and collaborated on litigation matters. “I can’t emphasize this enough,” Garzon says. “I love the team that I work with. I’ve been out of law school for almost twenty years, but just feel like I’ve now come to recognize the value of a good team. They make all the difference, and I’m so lucky to be here.”
Now with a four-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son, Garzon and her husband are working on their goal of traveling often, including visiting every national park. It may not be prosecuting criminals in the wee hours of the morning, but it sounds pretty good. And she sounds happy. She’s has found the balance of a family and meaningful work.
Amy Garzon is the proud daughter of an Ecuadorian father and a Puerto Rican mother. Her parents met when they moved to the same block in the Bronx. Garzon has fond memories of her hardworking family, especially her paternal grandmother who took care of her while her parents worked. Garzon inherited their hard work ethic. In high school, she got a cashier job at a supermarket, and was promoted to bookkeeper very quickly thereafter. Garzon was balancing the books for a business before she was finishing her algebra homework.
Sullivan & Cromwell is pleased to recognize the accomplishments of Amy Garzon, an expert in navigating complex government investigations, a dedicated and strategic advocate and partner, and a leader in promoting the advancement of diverse talent in the legal industry. We are proud to have the honor of working with her.