Areshini Pather, deputy commonwealth’s attorney for Charlottesville, has been named by Virginia Lawyers Weekly as a member of the 2021 class of Influential Women of Law.
Now in its third year, the awards program honors women whose work has improved the legal field by making a difference in the profession, their communities and the commonwealth, according to Virginia Lawyers Weekly.
Pather said she is honored to receive the recognition and that it is “truly humbling to be recognized alongside so many outstanding women attorneys in the commonwealth.”
“Women lawyers have made tremendous strides in the field of law, but there is more work to do,” Pather said. “This award recognizes that purpose and serves as a testament to the passionate, committed work done by women lawyers throughout the commonwealth each day.”
Pather was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, and she and her family emigrated to the United States when she was 17.
“This award is especially poignant for me because I came to the United States from South Africa as an immigrant in 1996,” she said. “I am honored to be able to give back to this country that has given so much to me and my family, and to Charlottesville, in particular, which gave me a foundation since I came here for college.”
Crediting the hard work of her family, Pather said she could not have achieved this recognition without them.
“My grandfather was involved in the anti-apartheid movement and my mother was a trailblazer as the first woman oral pathologist in South Africa,” she said. “Receiving this award is thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of my family who made this possible.”
After moving to the United States, Pather received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia before attending law school at UVa.
In her first year of law school, Pather worked as an intern in the Charlottesville Public Defender’s Office and realized it was what she wanted to pursue after school. After graduating, Pather spent six and a half years as a public defender in Richmond before eventually returning to Charlottesville to work under then-Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman.
Pather’s work as a prosecutor often sees her handling domestic violence and sexual assault cases, which her colleague and friend Nina-Alice Antony, senior-assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Charlottesville, characterizes as some of the most difficult cases.
“She is often the one who handles the hardest cases in our office, the cases that are the hardest emotionally,” Antony said. “Sexual assaults, things of that nature that require an attorney who not only has an immense amount of skill, but who has compassion and the ability to work with somebody and to help someone through what is often the very darkest time in their lives.”
Antony and Pather started within a month of each other in 2011 and over the last decade have become close friends, bonding over their shared experiences working as women of color in a field often dominated by white men.
“As women of color, you often feel like you have to go above and beyond what your male colleagues do to make sure you get the respect that should, frankly, just be uniformly applied to your position,” Antony said. “It’s just wonderful to see an award like this recognizing women in the law, because it is something that has not always been done for women, who have been for decades contributing to the law and their communities without the recognition of their male counterparts and colleagues.”
Joe Platania, commonwealth’s attorney for Charlottesville, also emphasized Pather’s work with difficult cases, describing her as a “fierce and passionate advocate,” with compassion to boot.
“She’s a tough-as-nails prosecutor, but behind the scenes she’s constantly checking on her colleagues and making sure they’re cared for,” he said.
Pather is among 30 honorees to receive the recognition from Virginia Lawyers Weekly this year, all of whom will be celebrated at an online awards ceremony July 20.