Ralph F. Antonioli is a Paralegal in the Litigation group of the Chicago office. He focuses his work on labor, employment and immigration matters. Ralph, who was born in South America, speaks five languages fluently and has already helped other teams with litigation matters in Italian and Spanish. He was recently admitted to the DC Bar.
“Most of us who live with a permanent disability only want a shot like everyone else, and it indeed makes me smile to know that the ADA has played, and continues to play, a major role in making this happen.”
How long have you been a paralegal at Sidley?
I have been a paralegal with Sidley in Chicago since August 2020, but I’ve been in the legal field for nearly 25 years, both abroad and most recently in the U.S. (I became a practicing attorney in my country of birth at the “innocent” age of 21).
What do you enjoy most about the work that you do at the firm?
What I most enjoy about Sidley is the genuine collegiality that I feel as soon as I walk into the building every morning. I have been coming to the office almost every day since August, and I have always been welcomed with a big smile by everyone. I have found this to be crucial in having an overall great day. In fact, I try to get to my train to work as soon as I can every day.
When you reflect on the 31st anniversary of the ADA, what are you most grateful for? What makes you smile?
I am most grateful for the fact that the ADA has allowed me to pursue my professional dreams, regardless of my permanent disability. When I was recovering from my head injuries, I was told by many “experts” that I would never walk again, much less work in law again. Well, I went on to pass the bar exam and am now a proud member of the Sidley family. The ADA has played a pivotal role in my efforts to become a licensed attorney in the United States. Growing up abroad, this simply would not have been possible, but knowing that I would be granted the opportunity to compete on equal terms with my peers who do not have a disability is extremely rewarding. I am confident when I say that most of us who live with a permanent disability only want a shot like everyone else, and it indeed makes me smile to know that the ADA has played, and continues to play, a major role in making this happen for so many people across the United States.
Are you involved in organizations outside the firm? If so, which ones?
Given that the Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) awareness efforts are still relatively new, I would like to become a global reference in championing such initiatives. Although AVM ruptures only occur in about 2% of the population, I still believe more awareness is needed. Unfortunately, numbers are increasing and episodes are becoming more common.
What do you do for fun? Is there a hobby or other personal interest that would surprise people to learn about you?
My number one fun activity is without question spending time with my family—my wife Hari and my daughter Emily have been the pillars of my miraculous recovery. And our puppy, Chewy, has absolutely changed our lives since he joined the Antonioli crew. Despite not being able to participate in contact sports as I used to before my AVM rupture, you might be surprised that I am still hopeful of one day making a U.S. Paralympics team and representing the country that has given us so much. I am relentless in pursuing my goals (or extremely stubborn, according to my loved ones) and am 100% confident I will absolutely make this happen. I also plan to finish a book about my story as an immigrant and as someone living with a permanent disability hoping that I can help others who are struggling or that feel they are in a hopeless situation.
Everybody has a walk-up song. What’s yours?
“Lose Yourself” by Eminem.
What has been your go-to self-care activity in this remote work environment?
Practicing meditation before the start of every work day has been a major part of my routine in the last year, mainly thanks to the “Headspace” app that is supported by the firm.
Can you share with us a saying or quote that gives you inspiration or helps you stay centered?
I am big into quotes, but if I get to pick one it would be the following by John F. Kennedy: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”