| Practice Description: |
"I'll always be grateful for the formal training in litigation and handling complex financial matters I received at Schiff Hardin," states Dorene Marcus, who started her career there as a young associate of Jim Friedman, a partner in the firm specializing in family law. "What I learned as a young attorney has become the cornerstone of my family law practice."
She explains, "Even though most divorces are best handled through negotiations, the option of using litigation offers confidence and comfort to my clients. I encourage them to work toward a 'fair deal'-which most often means they're giving up something. Still, they know they have this leverage if they need to go to trial." A teacher of a litigation course for family law attorneys at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, Marcus is recognized for her skills as a successful trial lawyer. But she cautions, "Litigation is best left to resolving conflicts about property and other economic matters."
While she acknowledges that there is a certain built-in tension between divorce attorneys and their clients, Marcus finds, "Our shared understanding of what constitutes a good outcome sets the stage for a more efficient and effective process, realizing the best possible settlement within the boundaries of the law. This approach provides definite challenges for clients. I'm asking them to trust me and the legal process at a time in their lives when they clearly feel betrayed."
Marcus has been handling divorce cases for more than thirty years, helping resolve a broad cross section of painful issues. She joined Davis Friedman in 1996, becoming a partner to her mentor Jim Friedman. "Still," she admits, "every once in a while I hear something I haven't heard before. People are astonishing in the creative ways they can mistreat each other. And when the stakes are high, resolving conflict often is even more challenging," she notes. "Going through a divorce can be a challenge emotionally, especially for the spouse who doesn't want it and the person they have trusted most is now on the other side. That's very difficult and painful to see."
Marcus offers her clients-many of whom arrive at her office feeling weakened and having to fight-a way to gain insight into the most important outcomes they can influence during their divorce. "If clients understand how secure or insecure they might feel later on, they can begin to build their plan and future. Some clients must fight for the very basics, including shelter. Others who have less worry about their financial security still must grapple with their feelings of rejection," Marcus explains.
"As my practice has matured, I typically attract clients who are happiest with my balanced style of representation. Now, most people who interview me, hire me because I'm the attorney they were looking for in the first place: forceful but calm, and supportive."
Marcus believes getting divorced doesn't have to be a miserable process, provided people are civil and reasonable. "I try to help people have an eye toward their future-even though it may be hard to envision at the moment. But if my clients can possibly take the long view, they are much better off. A lot of spouses are smarter now, and promote good relationships between themselves and their children," she adds. "Compared with when I first started to practice family law, my clients today are more educated about family life after divorce."
After fifteen years at Davis Friedman and a strong and diverse background at both corporate and boutique law firms in Chicago, Marcus believes that the opportunity to get to know a person very well in a short period of time is a privilege. With it comes responsibility, as well.
"I am allowed to ask questions that would not normally be socially appropriate, and I feel sad that the person is suffering," she explains. "People ask me, 'How do you do this? How can you stand this? It's so depressing and upsetting.' But in almost every case, I start with someone who is undergoing a traumatic, overwhelming change in their lives. And almost always their lives are so much better at the end their divorce. That's very gratifying."
Marcus observes, "The big challenge for me is dealing with people's anger." But she adds, with a smile, "I'm nobody's weapon of mass destruction."
Date of Birth: 1940
Law School: Loyola University Chicago Law School, J.D., 1978
Professional Certification: Certified Family Law Arbitrator
Undergraduate School: University of Illinois; Roosevelt University, B.A., 1962
Bar/Professional Association Involvement:
- American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
- Parliamentarian, 2004-2005
- Vice President, 2000-2003
- American College of Family Trial Lawyers
- Chicago Bar Association
- Matrimonial Law Committee
- American Bar Association
- Family Law Section
- Executive Council, 1993-1996
- Publications Development Board, 1986-1993
Published Legal Writing:
- "Valuation of Marital Property Right", Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education Family Law Handbook, 1986, revised 1989, 1992, and 1995
- "The Continuing Jurisdiction Dilemma in Interstate Child Custody Disputes," (co-author), 70 Illinois Bar Journal 304, 1982
- Faculty, American Bar Association Family Law Trial Advocacy Institute, University of Houston Law School, 2002-2007
- Faculty, Houston Family Law Trial Institute, South Texas School of Law, 2009, 2010