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BY KRISTIN WITZENBURG

B E S T C H O I C E I N L AW P R A C T I C E : FA M I LY L AW

Susan Wiesner Believes in Making a Difference

and talent are critical); experience with issues related to tax law, asset valuation, business law, compensation and real estate; and a worldly understanding of the human experience. "I am proud that our practice has reached so many different kinds of families ­ celebrities and high income families, those suffering from one or both spouse's drug addiction, two moms in a domestic partnership, and ones plagued by domestic violence or child endangerment," says Allyson Rinella of the firm. "Through our pro bono work we have been able to provide legal aid to low income families as well." Adds Wiesner, "While we do have celebrity clientele, I believe it is inappropriate to use their names as a marketing tool."

First Resolve Crisis

Wiesner credits much of their success to a line of defense that works quickly to first resolve crisis. Assuring clients that the law generally provides for an equitable solution, the attorneys at Wiesner Law Corporation are quick to take proactive steps that often calm the legal matters as well--such as getting a client immediately into rehabilitation if they are struggling with a drug or alcohol problem; or by communicating quickly with opposing counsel to find solutions so as to avoid litigation."A healthy co-parenting agreement is a first priority," says Jessica R. Lesowitz, also of the firm."Highly contentious lawsuits can carry over for a long time, which is of particular concern when children are involved." Wiesner often says, "We don't live by the sword, but we're not going to die by it either," meaning they approach each case with an eye towards settlement, but will not forfeit a tough line of defense when necessary to defend clients' rights.

(Left to right) Susan Wiesner, Jessica Lesowitz, and Allyson Rinella

M

arriage is perhaps the only contract one enters into without reading it first. It changes from state to state, meaning you can "enter" the contract in one state, move to another state and suddenly be held accountable to a new contract, all without being given a copy of either to read. The complexities of family law stem not only from widespread limited knowledge about all the implications of the marriage contract, but also from the evolving landscape of the nuances of relationships as well as family law. "Many people only become acutely aware of family law when they are facing a divorce, and at that moment they become filled with fear and trepidation of the unknown," says Susan

Wiesner, founder of Susan E. Wiesner, A Law Corporation."If there are children involved, the biggest fear people have is losing custody. Secondarily people are concerned with losing all of their financial security. Combined with the emotional trauma of a failed relationship, it can be quite overwhelming for most people."

Worldly Yet Grounded

Wiesner believes her background and interest in international affairs, her personal choices in life to be a single mother, her experience with her own divorce, and her fortunate study with mentors such as Sorrell Trope of the high profile family law firm Trope & Trope have all led her to find an intellectual, emotional and spiritual pinnacle through her client work. Her global outlook is seen in her education, her background and experience, her volunteer work, her family life, and her personal and professional goals. She adopted her daughter, Jane, from China after

Wiesner Law Corporation

Wiesner's firm specializes in family law, divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, premarital agreements, paternity and palimony. An expansive knowledge of the law and beyond provides a high level of service to clients,and includes expertise in "Professional Goodwill" litigation (often associated with highly skilled or trained professionals or in those fields where reputation

learning about the abandoned girls resulting from the "one-child" policy. She earned her law degree at Creighton University and then enrolled in the London School of Economics and Political Science to earn her Masters in Law. She is a member of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, and keeps grounded by focusing on the reward of helping people. "She's an extremely effective lawyer, not only in negotiating her client's interest, but in the courtroom as well. Even beyond that, she is caring and compassionate to her clients, and instills in them a true sense of self and confidence," says Sorrell Trope.The 1998 Harriett

"Many people only become acutely aware of family law when they are facing a divorce, and at that moment become filled with fear and trepidation of the unknown."

Buhai Center for Family Law Zephyr Ramsey Honoree for his commitment to justice for all people, Sorrell Trope may have influenced her involvement in the Center ­ but she has made her own place there today. She recently taught a class for the Center on the basic aspects of Family Law designed to instruct volunteers on how to help the Center's low-income clients. As par t of the Center's pro bono panel, the Wiesner Law Corporation also takes on a pro bono client every year on behalf of the organization. "Susan is the perfect representation of Harriett Buhai and the Center for Family Law. When we turn to our pro bono panel, it is because of a difficult, thorny case. Susan's family law expertise as well as her commitment

are what make her so valuable to us," says Betty L. Nordwind, Executive Director of the Harriett Buhai Center."When an attorney like Susan applies her professional expertise and knowledge freely to a challenging legal situation, it is extraordinary." The Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law is a co-sponsored family law/domestic violence project of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, and Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles. Named after Harriett Buhai ­ a woman characterized by activism on behalf of the causes of "...the least vocal, the least powerful, the wounded sparrows of the world....she gave it away free, without reward except that which comes inwardly to a person of values who does right in disregard of popular opinion and public appeal," says Superior Judge Isabel R. Cohen. Harriett was on the frontline of women lawyers representing women without fee. Sorrell Trope and other friends fondly recall Harriett for her capacity for friendship...a rare ability to hear what people are really saying and to accept them as they are. A woman with whom, beneath an ordinary appearance, lay a soul of unusual warmth, exuding love and affection, whose lightness despite the intensity of her beliefs, courage, and accomplishments of things beyond herself left us all better off.

Susan and Jane Wiesner

Why People Get Divorced

Wiesner believes that there are several trends to watch in the field of family law. She notes that the large amount of current publicity on the issue of gay marriage highlights the legal implications of the marriage contract generally.While more and more gay couples work to create their own relationship contracts, so do heterosexual couples in the form of co-habitation and pre-marital agreements."Enough people have seen a good friend or family member struggle through a nasty and devastating divorce, or know of someone who loses a beloved partner only to be shut out of their home and rightful place in bereavement.The stigma of establishing your contract up front is going away," says Wiesner. With all the divorce and suffering that must surely be witnessed by anyone in the family law field, Wiesner is surprisingly upbeat about it. "Often times what we think is the worst thing

turns out to be the best thing ­ a new beginning, an opening for new love, a resurrection of your lost self or esteem. So many of our clients believe that the experience has changed their lives for the better after they're through the fire of it all. Of course much of that change came from within, but it is very satisfying to play such a critical role in people's lives and try to help them find the right path." When asked to describe the most common event leading to divorce,Wiesner says,"You might think ­ especially in `tinsel town' ­ that it's betrayal or infidelity or lying. But it's not.The most common theme is a gradual decline of communication, leading to separate lives, and to one day waking up and not knowing whom you're married to anymore." Her advice? "Take your family seriously today.Talk about your relationship, take the time to understand your `contract' and make the effort to establish your values today."

Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law Volunteers & Donations: 213-388-7505 Volunteer x319 [email protected] Donations x317 [email protected] Appointments/referrals: 213-388-7515 Susan E.Wiesner, A Law Corporation 9113 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90069 (310) 281-2553

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