A woman who since her childhood has fought against male chauvinism and discrimination, today helps entrepreneurs and companies build bridges between Latin America and the United States, from Chicago, benefiting the business ecosystem and multiplying the opportunities for economic development.
The Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC) is proud to have among its new members, attorney Beatriz Martorello, an experienced professional who has been licensed as an attorney in Argentina since 1991, in Peru since 1999, and more recently in the State of Illinois.
She’s recognized by her trajectory as a litigator and mediator, with long international experience, and her exemplary life history is another example of the empowerment of Latino communities. Her life story deserves recognition.
The challenge of being a woman
Her father, a descendant of Italian immigrants, was very rigid about the mandates of the “roles” that according to him, women should play in society, and tried to impose those rules fiercely, even by beatings. Women, for men like him, could not study or work. They were only good for getting married, having many children, and keeping quiet. In that macho code many women accepted -and some in various latitudes still accept or resign themselves to their reality, dedicating themselves to being mothers and devoted housewives. And nothing else.
Beatriz confronted her father when she was only 12 years old and insisted, she wanted to study, be a lawyer, and be independent. Her father told her that she had to support herself and that she would have to pay for everything if she pursued her dream. She was forced to clean the family home, which had three floors, in order to “learn” what her future would be like.
Far from being scared, and even humiliated by her family, Beatriz asked her neighbor who was a cosmetics promoter to help her. With brochures in hand and several product samples, she started selling cosmetics door to door.
She walked 40 streets, every day, knocking on doors. That’s how she paid for her first English and piano lessons and bought many books, which were her passion. At the age of 12, for the first time, she tasted what economic independence was and began to build her dream of freedom. After that, she became a yoga teacher. Because she was overweight, she had started yoga to solve her spinal problems.
The family climate was so tense and violent that she coped by eating huge amounts of carbohydrates and had become obese. Yoga changed her life and her health; she lost a lot of weight and when she started teaching yoga classes, besides having a better income, she got a better perspective of what she wanted for her life: freedom.
In search of the dream
When she began studying Law School at Buenos Aires University, her father, blinded by anger and feeling challenged, stopped speaking to her. She took two buses and a train daily to and from her home. Her will was stronger than all the challenges her life was throwing at her.
Soon after, she rented a small place to live on her own. She slept on a cheap mattress on the floor for almost a year as she didn’t have the money to buy a bed. She studied and worked non-stop.
In her first year, a professor of Procedural Law offered her to be a teaching assistant and her first job in a law firm. The same professor invited her to collaborate in an Organization Commission of a Congress of Procedural Law for 2000 lawyers. That is how she started working for the Buenos Aires Bar Association (1989) and there she met the most renowned and brilliant professors in the field. This opened doors to her teaching career and to the Academy, both of which have occupied a very prominent place in Beatriz’s life.
In December 1990 she graduated as a lawyer from the prestigious (and public) Buenos Aires University.
The nightmare was not over yet.
She continued her career in a law firm where, according to her boss, “women should be secretaries or maids”… Beatriz was the firm’s first female lawyer. She earned half as much as the male lawyers, sexual harassment was common, and male chauvinism was rampant. But she continued to resist until May 1994 when she was able to become completely independent and started building her professional reputation, opening her own office, in an acquaintance’s office. She spent 20-hour workdays, almost no weekends, and had absolute devotion to her work. All the effort began to pay off economically but, above all, it opened the door to the freedom and independence she had dreamed of since she was a kid.
From the south… to the world
Her exceptional work as a trial lawyer and her devotion to the profession led her to be invited in 1997 to become a member of the Inter-American Bar Association (IABA) based in Washington DC, which brings together the Bar associations of the Americas, in addition to Spain and France.
In 2000 she received the IABA Diploma of Honor for her work as President of the Civil Law and Civil Procedure Committee and joined the organization’s Board of Directors, multiplying her travels and presence in international forums.
Her work was so recognized that, in 2010, she was unanimously elected president – only two women have held that position in the entire history of the IABA.
Her constant travels – whether as part of the IABA, the UIA (International Lawyers Union, based in Paris) led her to meet many lawyers, including Aaron Schildhaus, who is her current husband. He was a lawyer specializing in international law with offices in Washington DC and connections in Europe.
When she was elected President of the IABA she moved with her young son to DC to lead the institution more efficiently than from her remote and beautiful Buenos Aires.
The Bar Associations of Madrid, Paris, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, the American Bar Association, and the IABA itself, among others, recognized her for her work, giving her even more international exposure.
From disappointment to Chicago
When she returned in 2011 to her native Argentina, she found a country even more deeply immersed in its political, social, and economic crisis. When a child under 12 pointed a gun at her when she stopped her car at a traffic light, she felt that her country had become a burden. She knew she needed to find a safer place to raise and educate her son. Leaving her country, her friends, her family, and her career behind was not easy for her, but the process had already begun within her.
In 2012, together with a friend from Chicago, she founded and led a nonprofit organization called WEN (Women Empowerment Now). She organized workshops and seminars to empower women, on topics such as leadership, health, relationships, economic independence, emotional well-being, and domestic violence. This led her to travel to Europe, Latin America, and Africa. WEN has offices in Chicago, a city she barely knew, but found fascinating.
In December 2014 she moved with her husband and son to Chicago, even though she knew that her professional degree from Argentina was not valid to practice in the city. Her first job was as Division Manager at the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL), where for 4 years she exercised her new leadership role with great skill, patience, persistence and acceptance, to face and improve the complex processes of the American bureaucracy.
One of her last projects, which happily came to fruition, was the implementation of a mediation process, which is helping to speed up the resolution of more than 4,000 labor claims per year regarding the wage law. Beatriz actively participated in the development of the online process for filing claims, and translated into Spanish all the forms and materials.
While still working full time at IDOL and taking a leadership role in the Department, she studied the laws of her new country, without fatigue or breaks for over a year and a half, after work and every weekend. As a result of so much effort, in February 2018 she successfully passed the Illinois Bar exam, becoming a lawyer in the USA.
Today she is happy in Chicago. She joined her husband’s firm and between them, they manage a clientele formed by American companies already operating in Latin America / Europe or looking for a business in those markets -and by Mexican, Argentinean, Colombian, Peruvian, Uruguayan clients looking to establish their business in the United States.
A bridge between Latin America and the United States
The best way to define “MartorelloSchildhaus LLC” is as a boutique law firm that combines enough international experience to position itself in the legal market as one of the most experienced law firms in Chicago to act as a “legal bridge” between Latin America and the United States.
Beatriz Martorello’s experience in the Inter-American Bar Association and Aaron Schildhaus’ work in Washington DC and Europe and as past President of the American Bar Association International, gives them credentials as responsible, honest, and focused professionals to help their clients grow.
“We try to understand, help and empower our clients,” says Beatriz. “I personally have had a hard time breaking new ground and having a better life than the one I was destined for by my family’s mandate. I know about the efforts and sufferings that are behind every story of social progress. How can I not be enthusiastic and passionate about helping people who have the same cultural background as I do? The pandemic has confirmed to us that the only way we can move forward is to be collaborative and generous, and try to be happy doing what we love, which in our case is to serve our clients”.
Aaron and Beatriz have considerable transnational experience representing individuals, businesses, NGOs, and governments. Click here to learn more about their firm.