The blizzard of 1977 kept a lot of people from getting to where they were going. It even kept Philomena Ashdown from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University, to which she’d applied and been accepted from her native India.

Ashdown explains, “My brothers had come to the states in ’77 and said, ‘You’re crazy, you’ll freeze if you go to school in New Haven, Connecticut.’” So Ashdown delayed her move to the states and in time, changed the course of her career.

Instead, she graduated with a degree in biology from the University of Madras in India. She took her interest in wildlife conservation to schools, giving lectures featuring snakes and lizards. At the suggestion of one of her professors, Ashdown began to pursue a law degree in India. After completing an LL.B., again from the University of Madras, transferred to law school in the United States in 1984.

Her Catholic upbringing — “I’m one of the rare Indian Catholics,” she says — led her to Notre Dame, where she earned a J.D. Although her passion was conservation, she fell in love with courtroom work. Thanks to a clerkship with a revered bankruptcy judge, Ashdown found her way to her career passion: bankruptcy law, Chapter 11 workouts, general commercial law, banking, creditor and debtor rights.

“It is more generalized, you need to know a bit of everything,” Ashdown says of her practice, which requires some knowledge of real estate, labor, tax, corporate and employee issues. Ashdown enjoys the challenge of calling in experts to help certain aspects of her casework. The flexibility offered by Strauss & Troy also has helped accommodate family life, she says. Ashdown is mother to 12- and 15-year-old daughters.
Ashdown’s latest professional pet project has been the development of financial literacy education, covering basic credit and budgeting and warning against predatory lending and debt. She is co-chair of the Cincinnati chapter of C.A.R.E. (Credit Abuse Resistance Education), which has conducted training for college educators. Ashdown published an article on the topic in the November 2007 issue of Cincinnati Bar Association Report.