The Value of Experience: We Ask Family Law Litigator, Debra Schoenberg, How Her Experience Shapes Her Practice

Debra R. Schoenberg

The value of experience cannot be underestimated when talking about legal precedents and procedures.  For this reason we’ve asked family law litigator Debra Schoenberg about her past cases, and how they have influenced her practice.

Which of your previous cases has had the most impact on you and your practice?

After giving this careful thought it is impossible to identify the one case that has shaped my practice and outlook the most. I have handled countless matters from traditional dissolutions and division of assets cases to civil cases where children have been molested by other children or divorce cases involving heinous forms of child and spousal abuse.  Each client’s unique circumstances and the way they navigate those circumstances have given me both strength and inspiration as I have progressed through what is now a lengthy family law career. There are cases that stand out more than others; every one of has defined the parameters of advocacy.

Many of our clients come to us for assistance during one of the most difficult times in their lives. The dissolution of a marriage or a domestic partnership, disagreement about what custody schedule is right for your child, and division of property can be extremely challenging. It is the opportunity to help my clients through this undeniably difficult process that has had the most impact on me and my practice.  

What about your area of practice is the most difficult for your clients to understand?

Often it is procedural issues which are what is most difficult for our clients to understand.  Although our law firm diligently and expeditiously handles cases, we cannot control the speed of the Court’s docket.  Clients are frequently confused or frustrated about the unfortunate reality that it can take a long time before they are able to have a true hearing in which evidence is presented in court. Unfortunately, the nature of family law and the lack of judicial resources in our courts today, means that clients will appear for several short cause hearings or case management conferences before the there is a trial or a hearing which will in affect the case in a substantive way. However we make efforts to move cases along as quickly as possible.  

How do you help clients comprehend what you are doing on their behalf?

Our firm prides itself in maintaining prompt and constant client communication. We avoid any delay in communication as much as possible. Once we know something we endeavor to ensure that our clients receive that info almost as swiftly as we do. We also have big picture conversations with our clients at the outset of the case so as to help them understand the multiple issues which present in these types of cases. Because we are a team of a principal and several associates, and because we have the support of our amazing paralegals and assistants, we are able to offer our clients prompt attentive service at all times.

We offer seasoned advice on the spectrum of issues that arise in connection with domestic relations status actions. We respect our client’s wishes and aggressively yet compassionately work to advance their interests while maintaining high standards of legal, professional, and ethical integrity. In the event that we need to advise our clients that we are unable to proceed in the manner in which they instruct us, we make every effort to explain what legal and/or ethical conflicts may prevent us from so acting.  We keep our clients apprised of Court dates and important deadlines in connection with your case.  We are always in contact regarding documents that our clients need to read, authorize, and execute before we file them with the Court. 

What types of cases are you most excited to be a part of? Why?

All family law cases are exciting because they each present a unique fact pattern. Even after over 28 years of practice I still jump out of bed every morning excited to come to work. I learned early on in my career that I had a deep passion for being able to advocate for people who are in a position of strife. I have dedicated my practice to family law because the practice provides a space in which I can truly present my clients wishes and desires, and because I get to see humanity unfold every day.  While I might not remember the process of every case over my nearly 3 decades in family law, I remember different moment’s notable wins and creative settlements. From each of these cases I have learned skills, empathy and continue to develop my advocacy skills.

That said, I find that the those cases which challenge assumptions, carve out new rights and extend rights which some of us hold for granted, the most compelling, heartwarming and intellectually challenging. I am fortunate to have built a team of associates who agree with me on these principles.