by Karen Bouvier | Photo Supplied
Issue: March 2022
Name: MaryAnne Bukolt-Ryder
Occupation: Attorney specializing in Divorce and Family Law
Company Name: Law Offices of MaryAnne Bukolt-Ryder, Esq.
Family: Four adult children
Education: BA, The State University of New York at Albany, 1978, JD, Albany Law School, Albany, New York, 1981
Hometown: North Syracuse, NY. Currently lives on Cumberland Head, Plattsburgh
Community Involvement: St. Peter’s Church, Mountain Lake PBS, Noon Rotary, Senior Center, Alzheimer’s Walk
Following are excerpts from SB’s interview with MaryAnne Bukolt-Ryder.
Q: What inspired you to become a lawyer?
MBR: When I started playing violin in second grade my mother was thrilled. She had a brother who was a lawyer and an accomplished violinist, so she announced I was going to be a lawyer! I was groomed accordingly, and so I have done both. As a female in a family of eight children, my father treated me like “one of the boys” and did not diminish my ambitions. That was very progressive for the times.
Q: What factored into your choice to specialize in divorce and family law?
MBR: I believe it is the first line of defense for the average person. People who come to me are in a very personal and difficult situation. They need someone who is empathetic and willing to listen.
Q: What is your favorite part of the job?
MBR: It’s not a job, it’s a calling. I like what I do. I like helping people, giving advice and assisting them through their emotional trauma and the legal system.
Q: How would you describe the culture of your law practice?
MBR: Collective. We make most decisions collectively and I value my employees’ input. I currently have the best staff I’ve worked with in 40 years of practice. (Bukolt-Ryder employs four people—all women.)
Q: How has your profession changed over the years?
MBR: The Me-Too movement has put a label on what women have faced throughout their business lives in most professions, not just mine. For example, when I was first practicing law, I had a judge tell me, in court, to “do a twirl to show off my pretty frock”. I learned to be very firm and see behavior like this for what it is —demeaning and sexist. Attitudes are changing throughout our society and I am delighted to see it.
Q: What does success look like to you?
MBR: Success is a well-balanced life. I have a career I love, and still love. I don’t want to retire. I was able, mostly single-handedly, to raise four kids to be responsible, respectful, good people who care about the issues in the world. Since my law offices were in downtown Plattsburgh, they walked to my office every day after school. Sometimes they did their homework here. Other times they just checked in with me to tell me where they’d be going. I hear from all of them nearly every day. I feel blessed and successful.
Q: What advice would you give a young attorney?
MBR: Don’t take a job because of the money. Don’t turn down a job because of the money. Take a chance and do what draws you. You will learn a lot, make good contacts and find those experiences enhance and inform your career.
Q: If you could talk to your younger self, what advice would you offer?
MBR: Don’t worry when people call you “aggressive”. It’s because you’re strong. Have confidence. Believe that you are who you are.
Q: What is something—outside of your formal education—that has helped you succeed?
MBR: I credit being female, and a left-brained musician, with helping me think outside the box. I can see very clearly what other attorneys may not see at all.
Q: What advice would you offer to someone starting their own business?
MBR: Before starting a business, you need to familiarize yourself with tax law, insurance, employment law, and accounting practices. There is more to business than earning a degree or getting training and experience in your chosen profession. Do your research. It took me 20 years to figure out how to run a business properly, and I made some costly mistakes. Make sure you can take care of your business before plunging in.
Q: How would you like to be remembered?
MBR: As someone who worked hard to help the people God sent me.
Q: What is something no one would guess about you?
MBR: I’m pretty religious. I have played music at Mass in St. Peter’s for many years. Theology is one of my hobbies along with reading history and following national politics.
Q: What do you do to recharge in your free time?
MBR: Travel, performing and listening to music, reading, and spending time with my family and pets. Once the pandemic eases, I’d like to go to Ireland and travel from pub to pub playing music with everyone I meet.
Q: What could the North Country business community do today to ensure a prosperous future?
MBR: Be open to new ideas. I continually see the battle between old-school and new thinking. Progress means change, and change is good. Things that don’t change, die. I’m not ready to die yet, and neither is Plattsburgh!