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THE PARADOX OF EQUILIBRIUM: David Schulman Keeps The Scales Tipped In His Clients’ Favor By Keeping Balance

As David Schulman, Partner with Moore, Schulman, Moore, APC celebrates 20 years as a family law attorney in San Diego, he credits a commitment to balance as the keystone of his tenure in an emotionally charged field. But he’s not speaking exclusively about a professional life/ personal life balance. Instead, Schulman is absolutely clear that maintaining a sense of balance when working with clients, within the courts, and with minors is imperative in order to be a successful family law attorney.

Schulman knows a thing or two about being a successful family law attorney. As a 2012 San Diego Daily Transcript Top Attorney Finalist, Schulman has also been named a San Diego Super Lawyer for three years and has been on the San Diego Super Lawyers list for four years. He is an active member of the California State Bar as Commissioner for the Family Law Advisory Committee. Moreover, Schulman is a Certified Specialist in Family Law and has been a Family Law Judge Pro Tem in all San Diego courts since 1999. To boot, he is one of the rare San Diego Family Attorneys who has been Court appointed to represent and act as Minor’s Counsel. Suffice to say, for Schulman, balance is much more than a luxury; it’s a necessity. “You could do this job 24/7,” he says. But, “without balance, you are going to be ineffective counsel for your clients,” he explains in the matter-of-fact style that has helped his clients who are dealing with extremely emotional issues.

BIG PICTURE BALANCE
Part of Schulman’s responsibilities as a family attorney is to first and foremost “help my clients to see the overall picture,” he says. Achieving that objective, however, requires rigorous honesty. “I am a straight shooter. I don’t sugarcoat the practicalities of the issues at hand. I understand that the divorce setting is one of the most difficult situations a person can go through in life. If I can help each client see the big picture and get them through the process while assuring them that this will get better, they will look back one day with closure and finality,” Schulman adds.

However, he admits that managing client expectations is not always an easy feat. After 20 years of family law, Schulman has had his share of unusual requests, some so unreasonable that Schulman has had to mandate some balance. “A number of good, ethical attorneys, as well as judges, were willing to give me constructive criticism and feedback [when I was a new attorney] in dealing with preparing for court, client control and the overall practice of law. I was taught to be respectful and courteous to the court and to other attorneys,” he says. To that end, he adds “I have had to say to clients, ‘I’m not willing to stand in front of a judge with that request.’’’

Indeed, Schulman has to remind clients to pick and choose their battles. “They don’t always want to hear what I have to say. However, after time—generally a few years—they too look back and realize that it really was just a bump in the road, and in the scheme of things, making a big deal out of it didn’t make sense,” he explains.

In the meantime however, he encourages his clients and their families to attend individual or family therapy, and he is happy to work in collaboration with therapists. Often, he adds, the therapists can get clients to see things that he can’t, because of the extreme bitterness they feel toward a spouse. “In family law, clients aren’t only bitter at each other, but they are often bitter at the attorneys, too.”

Office Manager Heidi Sorensen, David Schulman and Partner Erik Moore

EQUAL JUSTICE FOR JUVENILES
The emotional nature of family law cases is often exponentially heightened when it comes to the custody of children. As one of the few family law attorneys in San Diego who is appointed by the Court to represent and act as Minor’s Counsel, Schulman truly enjoys working with children. In fact, in addition to his ability and drive to solve problems to help people, “helping those especially challenged with understanding the legal process became my focal point,” he says of the decision to become an attorney.

Minors in particular, tend to be those who do not understand the legal process. Schulman’s job therefore involves explaining their rights, and helping them to make decisions, so that they too have a voice. “In highly contentious cases, you may have one parent who wants the child to testify, whereas the other does not want that under any circumstances. I let that child have a voice, and try to find some balance,” he says.
This often requires that Schulman meet the minors where they are, both literally and metaphorically. “I go to their schools, and the minors I work with are the only people who have my cell phone number,” he says. He laughs when he admits that, as a result, he has to engage in a great deal of text messaging these days. But the work is extremely rewarding for Schulman. “Kids think the attorney-client privilege is so cool. When they learn that I’m not going to discuss what they say with their parents, they love it, and become very trusting,” he says. In part, this helps to offset the fact that “when you represent the children, both of the parties are angry with you.”

PAYING IT BACK BY PAYING IT FORWARD
Schulman’s entire life is clearly predicated on maintaining balance, a lesson learned first from his father, Barry Schulman who is now a retired family law attorney. “He taught me it is important to leave your work at the office and enjoy your social time as it makes you a much more effective as an attorney. The off-hours are necessary to make sure you have time to recharge your batteries,” he recalls. Continuing, he says, “When my father was not working, he did not discuss his cases at home and made sure his time with friends and family were a priority.”

Schulman also counts the guidance and influences of Harry Powazek, now a Superior Court Judge, Alan B. Clements, retired Commissioner of the San Diego Superior Court, and Thomas Ashworth III, retired Superior Court Judge, and his father as instrumental early in his career. The mentorship he received is something he strives to pass on to the next generation of family law attorneys. He also credits his former partner, Judge Margo Lewis, as well as his current partners, Erik Moore, and Peggy Moore with reminding him to keep matters in perspective when things get stressful.

“Our firm believes in mentoring our staff, young law clerks and associates to work with the specialists side by side on our cases,” he says. But he also extends his suggestions and advice to any young attorney who needs help. “I had incredible mentors who I would call on when I had questions, and I will always take a call from a young attorney with a question,” he says.

Obviously, for Schulman, the key to success for himself, but more importantly for his clients, is a commitment to balance in the field of family law. From making sure that children have a voice, to managing client expectations during particularly emotional and volatile times, to paying back to the next generation of attorneys the advice he freely received from the attorneys who came before him; Schulman’s strategy has paid off. As far as his third decade in family law is concerned; Schulman looks forward to growing the firm slowly and steadily, making sure not to upset the balance of the existing success he and his partners have achieved.

Contact:

Moore, Schulman, Moore, APC

858-755-3300, dschulman@msmfamilylaw.com
2636 High Bluff Drive, Suite 200
San Diego, California 92130

www.msmfamilylaw.com

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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