Longtime readers of Above the Law will recall the tale of Aquagirl. She’s the former Cleary Gottlieb summer associate who, while in a state of inebriation, stripped down to her underwear at a Chelsea Piers charity benefit and jumped into the Hudson River. This might have been an effort to demonstrate her swimming prowess (she was on the swim team in college), but ultimately she had to be rescued in a boat by either the Coast Guard or the NYPD. Her exploits are now the stuff of legend, the bar by which summer associate misadventures are measured.
In these pages, we’ve referred to Aquagirl simply by her nickname, in keeping with our general policy of anonymizing summer associate stories. But that policy admits of exceptions. We will now unmask Aquagirl because she’s back in the headlines for newsworthy conduct — this time heroic rather than scandalous….
Here’s a report from the New York Post:
Clara Vondrich, 36, was taking a business phone call while standing in front of a Williamsburg coffee shop on South Third Street at 1:20 p.m. when the teen approached her with two pals.
The 13-year-old, whose name is being withheld by The Post because he is a minor, allegedly pushed her from behind, nearly knocking her to the ground. He ripped the phone from her hand and fled, said Vondrich and police sources.
Aquagirl’s prowess extends to land as well as sea. Here’s what happened next:
Wearing a pair of thick wedges and a sundress, Vondrich chased after him. Hot on the kid’s heels, she pleaded with him to give the cellphone back.
“I was screaming the whole time, ‘Get that kid!’ ” Vondrich recalled. “I finally said, ‘Yo, I’ll give you $200 for that. Just stop.’ ”
Vondrich said the teen appeared to be out of shape and handed off the phone to his more nimble pal, who ran off.
The “nimble pal” might have escaped — for now — but the original alleged phone-grabber wasn’t so lucky. Here’s how the five-block chase ended:
The Wonder Woman grabbed hold of the teen at South Sixth Street and Wythe Avenue, wrapping her arms around his chest and pinning him against a car….
Vondrich, who works in advertising, held him for two minutes before cops arrived. The boy was cuffed and taken to the 90th Precinct station house, where he was expected to be charged with grand larceny, sources said.
Don’t believe this tale? Here’s the photographic proof, via Clara Vondrich’s Twitter feed:
— Clara Vondrich (@Clara_Vondrich) August 16, 2014
Moral of the story: you can come back from scandal. After her ill-fated summer at Cleary, Vondrich did a 3L summer at Arnold & Porter (where she was famously open about her colorful past). After clerking on the Tenth Circuit, the UVA Law grad returned to Arnold & Porter, where she worked for almost three years. She eventually transitioned out of law and now works in public relations at Fenton Communications, a social change communications agency, where she focuses on climate-change issues. She describes herself on Twitter as a “[c]limate change-obsessed recovering lawyer,” which suggests that she doesn’t miss the practice of law.
Based on reports from mutual friends, we understand that Aquagirl today is sober, happy, healthy — and heroic. Congratulations to Clara Vondrich on her personal and professional success — and on her new career in crime fighting!
P.S. For a less charitable account of Vondrich, see Gawker: All The Things Not to Do When You Capture Your Own Child Mugger. I suppose Aquagirl’s own youthful indiscretion could be cited to strengthen the argument of the Gawker writer, Jordan Sargent, that Vondrich shouldn’t have been so hard on this kid — after all, Vondrich did stupid stuff too when she was younger.
P.P.S. Our identifying Vondrich is not a true “unmasking,” since anyone intent on learning Aquagirl’s true identity could have done so fairly easily. The info was already available in multiple places online.
P.P.P.S. Speaking of summer associate scandals, this past summer was pretty low on drama — but now that programs are mostly over and offers are mostly issued, it’s safe to spill the beans. If you have a fun summer associate story you’d like to share, please email us or text us (646-820-8477). Thanks.
Woman chases down, captures alleged thief [New York Post]
All The Things Not to Do When You Capture Your Own Child Mugger [Gawker]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Aquagirl