DUI Lady Teresa DiNardi's working life got off to a late start — but blame that on her father, an officer with the Newington Police Department.
He'd seen plenty of crime scenes around town, and he wanted to keep his teenage daughter away from all of them. That effectively limited plenty of potential workplaces: Even the mall was too close to danger, as far as the protective father was concerned. So DiNardi started work at one of the most sequestered jobs available — she answered phones at a call center.
Now her face graces billboards around Connecticut, making her the figurehead for Ruane Attorney at Law's Driving Under the Influence criminal defense services. But at age 16, she was stuck behind the phones, taking calls from 1-800 infomercial customers. Like most telephone jobs, that one didn't last long. Maybe a month or so, and it wasn't exactly interesting work.
"It's kind of a blur," the 28-year-old DiNardi said, laughing.
Prior to launching her law career, DiNardi held a hodgepodge of completely unrelated jobs. She taught basic computer skills to nontraditional — i.e., older — students at St. Joseph College in West Hartford. There, she and her fellow instructors explained everything from the ground up, starting with lessons such as "This is a keyboard."
DiNardi spent time as an Enterprise Rent-A-Car employee, mostly cleaning out returned cars and preparing them to be rented again. It doesn't sound so bad, and DiNardi said it wasn't; except when they cleaned cars that had been in renters' hands for long periods of time.
"They were trashed," she said, littered with food and various pieces of garbage, some of it more off-putting than others. "Sometimes it was like a hotel."
Then there was the stint working at a Healthtrax Fitness & Wellness gym, where she sold memberships and gave tours to prospective members. The aggressiveness of gym salespeople has become something of a common joke, with many a sitcom skewering the feisty tactics in the trade. DiNardi, for her part, confirms that gym sales can be a competitive enterprise. Salespeople practically raced to be the first to greet potential new members, but DiNardi herself said she didn't stick with the work — she was busy starting her law career.
Although her current firms' ads tout her as guru on all things DUI defense-related, DiNardi actually spent most of law school working in other areas of law: She shifted through dusty volumes of land deeds in her work for a title insurance firm, later learned about real estate closings and did audits for the IRS. Basically, she learned the ropes at a number of different jobs.
But after graduating law school, she headed to the Ruane law firm, and eventually her role as Lady DUI. The title came about mostly because, as a young woman in criminal defense, she's noticeable among the largely male crowd of such lawyers.
"I stick out like a sore thumb," she said. Another lawyer at her firm once jokingly referred to her as "Lady DUI," and the title seemed like a great idea for an advertising gimmick. The number "888-Lady-DUI" was available, so why not?
It's put DiNardi into the middle of controversy, as plenty of people have objected to the idea that DiNardi would put herself out there as a helper to drunken drivers, but she insists that everyone deserves a defense.
And having a woman's face on the billboard has been helpful in other respects. Some women arrested for DUI only want a female attorney. DiNardi, among the few women attorneys specializing in that area of law, can step up to help.