In 2009, the Philadelphia- based law firm Weber Gallagher started a family law practice as a service to its clients. Instead of building from the ground up, however, the well-established firm, which has more than 100 attorneys in 10 offices along the East Coast, acquired a practice in Norristown that was brimming with well-known talent.
Weber Gallagher’s Family Law Group has continued to flourish and grown even stronger since then. The Family Law Group now includes four experienced attorneys, who handle matters involving divorce, custody, support, equitable distribution and protection from abuse. Partner Carolyn Mirabile, who joined Weber Gallagher’s Norristown office in 2010, now serves as Chair of the Family Law Group.
Like the other three family law attorneys in the Norristown office, Mirabile drafts prenuptial and postnuptial agreements while counseling clients on avoiding the emotional and financial drains of litigation. In cases where an agreement is just not possible, the attorneys draw on their extensive trial and appellate experience.
Mirabile has been practicing law for as long as Weber Gallagher has been in business, and she has successfully argued cases on appeal before both the Supreme Court and Superior Court of Pennsylvania. In 2016, she became President of the Montgomery Bar Association, the third-largest bar in Pennsylvania behind Philadelphia and Allegheny (Pittsburgh area). She was the fourth female president in the bar’s 131- year history and the first family law attorney to hold the association’s top office in more than a decade.
Described by peers as a “mover and shaker,” Mirabile says the Family Law Group includes a “great group of lawyers who are committed to their profession and always trying to improve their practice.”
Donna M. Marcus is the most recent addition to the Family Law Group, having joined Weber Gallagher in 2017. Before joining the firm, she worked as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia. She served the DA’s office in numerous capacities since starting there in 2003, most recently in the Child Support Enforcement Unit. The experience reinforced her desire to help families in need of the guidance and experience only a seasoned family law attorney can provide.
“Here, we all work together to handle everything under the umbrella of family law,” says Marcus, who belongs to several legal organizations, including the Montgomery Bar Association, Louis D. Brandeis Law Society and the Doris Jonas Freed Inn of Court. “We discuss all the cases together, and each of us knows the ins and outs of each case so one of us could fill in for the lead attorney, if needed. Having the four of us working together so closely lends to more brainstorming, so we can help to solve the problems our clients face.”
As if to underscore her point, fellow attorney John Zurzola, says he was drawn to the practice by the “quality of the attorneys and cases.” He joined Weber Gallagher at the beginning of 2016 and has been practicing law for more than 18 years.
“We specialize in the more complex divorces—divorces that include high-asset cases,” says Zurzola, a partner in the firm. “We’re in a no-fault state, so the focus shifts to division of assets and debts. That’s where things get complicated. If you are a client who has accumulated significant assets or has complex legal issues, you want a group of lawyers experienced with how the courts in the five-county area will decide the case.”
Zurzola explains that there is significant disparity in how courts look at equitable distribution and alimony. Each judge has discretion in how they can apply the facts of law to a given case. “Each court has its own rules of thumb,” he says, pointing out that this is where his firm’s deep experience comes into play.
Mirabile, for her part, has been “before just about every judge in Montgomery County.” She adds: “We know what’s going on in the five-county area. We can develop the file based on what a particular judge might be looking for. You can’t buy that kind of experience. It’s so valuable to our clients—it’s what clients are paying for.”
Lynne Gold-Bikin, a partner with more than 40 years of experience, rounds out the Family Law Group’s legal team. Having moved to the Greater Philadelphia Area from New York in the late 1960s, Gold- Bikin has become something of an icon in the area of family law.
“We know our strengths and we get good results,” says Gold-Bikin. “If we can negotiate it, we do. We’re always open to a fair settlement. If we can’t, we fight very hard for our clients in court.”
A Hands-on Approach
Weber Gallagher’s caseload has grown almost exclusively by way of referral—from judges, as well as from past clients the firm has represented. The firm is also known for representing high-profile clients, including corporate executives, entertainers, entrepreneurs and professionals. Each attorney knows how to protect client confidentiality and help manage the unwanted publicity that often results from a divorce.
“I really feel that we can deal with so many different aspects of a case,” Mirabile says. “We have attorneys with 25 and 40 years of experience. Every day, we’re in the trenches, developing theories of our cases, preparing, going to court. We’re hands on.”
Mirabile says the one thing she hears the most from clients the firm has represented has to do with how the clients received immediate updates on their case. For a firm that serves as many clients as they do, Mirabile says this kind of turnaround time is practically unheard of.
“Whether it’s a letter from an opposing attorney or an order from the judge, [our clients] hear about it immediately; as soon as we get it, they get it,” she says. “It’s important to keep people informed about their case. It gives them a comfort level.”
Practicing family law can be, in a word, challenging: Each case is rife with emotion; some cases go on for years; and working with children who are forced to deal with a new reality in which their parents are no longer together is incredibly difficult. For Mirabile, the most fulfilling aspects of her job come from “getting [the situation] resolved and seeing the satisfaction of the client; getting to a conclusion that is good for the child, good for the family, good for everybody—a good ending.”
With the talent and deep experience of the four attorneys who make up Weber Gallagher’s Family Law Group, a “good ending” is very likely.
For more information on Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby LLP offices throughout the Greater Philadelphia Area, visit www.wglaw.com.
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life Magazine, January, 2018.