OAKHURST — The law firm of McGoldrick & McGoldrick is helmed by the talented and altruistic team of Snezhana and Bernard McGoldrick. It’s been nearly three decades since Bernie set out into the world after graduating from Yosemite High, and now he and Snezhana, partners in business and in life, are just as committed to family and community as can be imagined.
Bernard J. McGoldrick, Esq., or “Bernie,” as he is commonly known, grew up in the Royal Oaks area of town. His father was a professor at Fresno State University and his mom taught as a home tutor for extended-stay children. This program served kids who, for various reasons, were unable to attend school for a long period of time. The program later became the Mountain Home School Charter we know today.
She also taught as a substitute with Oakhurst Creek Intermediate and Yosemite High School (YHS), affording Bernie limited time to find the typical trouble a young man might get into. As it turned out, she needn’t have worried; young Bernie held a well-grounded outlook on life, even then.
Influenced by parents in what he calls a “stereotypical Irish-American home,” he was encouraged to study and develop his mind. Bernie enjoyed a comfortably happy childhood, and was naturally drawn to the student mock trials, as well as drama, and a bit of basketball and football to expand his scope of possibilities. The all-around American kid with options began to explore a variety of experiences through school and started to work toward what resonated most.
After graduating from YHS in 1988, Bernie attended California State University Fresno as an undergraduate. He earned his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, in 1994. He spent a year with UPS working the night shift and, although he was offered a career in management due to his degree and skill set, Bernie was called to something different. He went on to attend the distinguished UC Berkeley School of Law School, one of the top law schools in the nation.
Bernie graduated in 1998 with honors for his Moot Court Advocacy work. During his last year attending UC Berkeley, the “most beautiful girl” crossed his path and immediately captured his attention. Bernie thought he didn’t have a chance with the brilliant young woman who was in her first year of law school. One day in the library, Bernie worked up enough courage to pass her a note. She was not impressed by this show of interest — a note — and told him to just talk with her.
The young woman who instantly stole Bernie’s heart was fellow law student Snezhana Shulzhik, born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, formerly known as Leningrad. Her father, raised during Soviet times, came from an outspoken anti-communist family. Her grandfather, from Belorussia, was a World War II veteran who lost an arm and three fingers fighting the Germans. Later, he was a farmer. He could never accept communism and lost his land due to his resistance. The family farm was “collectivized” and they were sent to Siberia for three years.
Bernie shares some of the ways in which his father-in-law was unique, by expressing none of the negative memories from that time in Siberia, only how pristine and utterly beautiful it was. When the Soviet Union collapsed, he started a building company for water, sewer and other construction, a private enterprise far more efficient than the government.
Upon coming of age Snezhana sought to obtain her education in economics, with the intention of returning home to work for her father. She had attended St. Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance, earning her degree. While there, she discovered that her true passion was law as well, and went on to attend Law School at the St. Petersburg State University, earning her law degree in 1997.
“It is highly beneficial to have Western training in European law firms from what is called a ‘common law country,'” Bernie says, noting that it offers higher wages and more opportunities. Each year, one student from all of Russia was chosen by UC Berkeley to study there. In 1997, that person was Snezhana Shulzhik.
She spent one year at UC Berkeley School of Law, where she met Bernie. There, she earned her Masters of Laws (L.L.M) in 1998 and is now licensed to practice law in both California and New York.
Having trained in both Russia and the United States, Snezhana was in high demand, and a position in Manhattan working with international deals was already lined up for her. After meeting Bernie in California, followed by their whirlwind romance over that summer, Snezhana left for New York and the big law firm with 90-100 hour work weeks in fast-paced New York City, but that was soon to change.
Bernie had returned to the Fresno area to work and, two weeks in, he found himself compelled to fly to the east coast just to be with her. He had no intentions of staying in New York at the time, only to be with the woman he loved. She had agreed to marry him and make a life in his world, with his roots and community, but first, he needed to get to know hers.
Fulfilling a promise to his new bride, Bernie traveled to Russia, where he lived for the next year, embracing her family and their lifestyle, learning the language, and solidifying the union of two people who started out in life literally a world apart.
“It was a tough year on a California kid,” Bernie says now, “and also the smartest thing I’ve ever done!”
He arrived in January and did not see the sun again until April. During this time he became very close to her family, but three months in his father died.
“I found myself in quite a bit of back and forth travel between our two worlds, while also setting up a practice here in my home town.”
Time progressed as did their love for one another, and their love for the work they shared.
“My wife became pregnant and we wanted our daughter to experience the international life as well.”
Spending extended periods in St. Petersburg, their small daughter became fluent in Russian and attended an American school there, in whose ranks were children of executives and diplomats.
“The entire international experience has had a profound effect on our daughters, expanding their lives in so many ways,” Bernie notes.
Meanwhile, Bernie stayed primarily in the states, working his practice and quite lonely for his family, so he asked them to return. He had opened his own practice immediately on becoming licensed in California, and was a sole practitioner there, until Snezhana joined him in 2008.
Together, the couple refined the practice with each bringing individualized strengths to the table, separately covering various aspects of law, yet always supported by the other as a working unit.
Bernie shares that Snezhana is a formidable litigator with the rare ability to tell someone no when necessary; he admires her for this and admits there is a lot of fight in both of them, and that’s what it takes.
“Her focus of law is civil, including real estate, bankruptcy and breach of contract; she has her hand in more pies. My own focus is within estate work: trusts, wills and disputes. I appreciate getting to know my clients and building that relationship.”
He takes pride in having his firm provide the quality of a large outfit at a cost that is affordable. Bernie also says they are careful to not take on too many cases. Once they hit a maximum, they begin to decline new accounts in order to devote themselves to the clientele at hand.
When speaking about community, you can hear in Bernie’s voice how much he loves his home.
“I have forty-six years committed to this area, it is my family’s home. There is a higher concentration of good and interesting people within this community, with such diverse backgrounds and I truly appreciate that diversity,” Bernie says.
“People pay attention to other people and focus on those around them. I’m always so pleased to see the donations for those in need come together with such care. There are generous people here. I’ve invested most of my life in this community and received even more back from it.”
Bernie realizes when people commit their time, energy and passion to their community, they are rewarded something far greater than monetary reciprocity.
Bernie has a long list of service organizations within our community that have meant a great deal to him over the years and benefited from his dedicated volunteerism. Sunrise Rotary, Soroptomist, YHS Scholarship Foundation, Board of the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce and the Boys and Girls Club, to name just a few. Today he has restricted his time on the boards and redirected his community service to areas that associate with their children. He has coached the Student Mock Trials and youth basketball.
The McGoldricks’ true pride and joy are their three children — Isabele, Sophia and Lucas. The girls are in YHS high school now and quite independent. They too have become well-rounded and are quite athletic as well as intellectual. Both are dedicated team members of water polo and Isabel was honored as MVP. They both enjoy mock-trial, drama and art, and Sophia is starting on the varsity basketball team. Their son Lucas, who is now eight, loves all sports; basketball, soccer and wrestling. His maternal grandfather was an engineer and he is clearly showing tendencies toward that too.
While Snezhana was the consummate city girl, she soon came to know and love aspects of the small town life her husband lovingly shared.
“There is no traffic, much more family time and we love the Sierra and outdoors activities,” Bernie says. “Our home has a view of those mountains that you can’t replace with anything.”
One aspects of being an immigrant is Snezhana’s first exposure to Hollywood films did not come until she was 25. Now, watching the classics is one of her most cherished personal activities.
“My wife is a great cook also with a passion for it,” says Bernie. “There may come a time one day when she retires and I find her running her own restaurant.”
In Bernie’s spare time he truly enjoys reading and developing his library. As an English major, Bernie speaks of his own passion for non-fiction and music of all kinds and has a found a personal goal for himself as well. When he retires, his intention is to read all of the works of Shakespeare.
By combining the skills and experience acquired while practicing in the area of Business Law, Trust and Estates, Real Property and Construction Law, McGoldrick & McGoldrick has developed a highly successful civil litigation practice with a special emphasis on Trust and Estate Litigation, Will Contests, Real Estate, Construction Disputes, and Collections.
“In a small town, reputation means everything to an attorney, and we guard ours tenaciously by acting with integrity and the highest level of competency.”
McGoldrick & McGoldrick is located in the Victorian Village at 49239 Golden Oak Loop in Oakhurst. Phone (559) 683-4130 or email firstname.lastname@example.org