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Breaking Up Isn't Hard To Do
Comments () | Published February 1, 2004

20. JEFFREY GREENBLATT (Brodsky, Greenblatt & Renehan; 301-869-1700. $330/hour. DC, MD). This Bronx native is one of the tough guys of the Maryland divorce bar. He frustrates opponents because he accepts no handshake deals--Greenblatt wants it written in indelible ink. He is considered a workaholic, and his clients get their due. Greenblatt's fastidiousness can be expensive, but if that is a problem, he will hand off some of your work to associates. Most clients come to understand, though, that paying more for Greenblatt up front gets them more later from the judge. "I like it when I go into a court with a lawyer who has adopted a slipshod approach," he says. "Lawyers who stick their heads in a hole and don't do the work necessary end up with their clients' getting creamed in court."

21. JOSEPH PARADISO (Paradiso, Dack, Taub & Sinay; 301-986-7900. $300/hour. MD, DC). Paradiso, 53, has two qualities that clients like--he's relatively inexpensive, and he doesn't waste time. His philosophy is to resolve cases in the most cost-efficient manner and still achieve a reasonable objective. Paradiso regularly rejects cases he considers outlandish, such as that of the father who traveled 250 days a year and wanted to file for sole custody.

22. RONALD OGENS (Deckelbaum Ogens & Raftery; 301-961-9200. $365/hour. DC, MD). Some colleagues complain that Ogens is so detail-oriented that they hate going into a conference room with him. But clients point out that Ogens is quick at coming up with innovative solutions to a family's complicated problems. If you want to make sure that the T's are crossed and the I's dotted, he might be the lawyer for you. "I don't think I'm picky," says Ogens, 61. "I just like to make sure my clients get what they are supposed to. When I make an agreement for a client, it lasts."

23. ARMIN U. KUDER (Kuder, Smollar & Friedman; 202-331-7522. $375/hour. DC, MD). His nickname used to be "Barra-Kuder," which says a lot about his style. Rick Kuder, a 68-year-old Harvard Law graduate, is a feared negotiator, and his posturing is buttressed by his absolute confidence in his ability to win in court. He is extremely discreet. "There's not much I can do about my reputation," says Kuder. "The fact is I try to manage my cases in the least destructive way possible." He's a tough negotiator and a strong advocate in court.

24. ROBERT SHOUN (Shoun, Bach & Walinsky; 703-222-3333. $415/hour. VA). A 1964 graduate of Duke Law School, Robert Shoun has extensive experience in broad areas of law. He was a JAG in the US Army and worked in the general counsel's office of the US Department of Commerce. He is one of the area's top experts in the tax consequences of divorce as well as in the vagaries of military retirement and pension plans. If Shoun is occupied, request one of his partners, Heather Cooper, also highly recommended by many clients.

25. FAITH DORNBRAND (Dornbrand & Associates; 301-280-3780. $315/hour. DC, MD). Dornbrand moved to central Bethesda from downtown DC in 2002, but her take-no-prisoners style hasn't changed. A Yale graduate with a law degree from the University of California's Boalt Hall, Dornbrand brings brainpower as well as firepower. Yet she is accessible, engaged, and interested in each case. Dornbrand recently went off on her own; she has two associates. But she can move cases as quickly and efficiently as anyone.

26. LAUREN SHEA (Ain & Bank; 202-530-3300. $225/hour. DC, VA). Shea, 45, practiced family law in Manhattan before moving to Washington with her husband, lawyer Robert Tigner. She has been a quick study, learning the craft from top divorce lawyer Sandy Ain. The Arlington resident has become a master of the arcane and sometimes unwritten rules of the Virginia courts. Says one colleague, "No one beats Lauren Shea's thoughtfulness, civility, and competence in the sometimes wild practice of the Virginia domestic-relations bar."

27. ROBERT LIOTTA (Liotta, Dranitzke & Engel; 202-797-7700. $300/hour. MD, DC). A popular and well-known figure in DC, Liotta's easygoing manner is a throwback to the days when doctors made house calls. Colleagues and some clients complain that he is overextended. "I try not to be," says Liotta, 62, "but my life is fairly full." Don't mistake an absent-minded-professor demeanor for a lack of caring--or acumen. Liotta remains one of the most solid and approachable attorneys in Washington

28. WALTER W. JOHNSON JR. (301-587-2090. $300/hour. MD). Johnson is a gentlemanly divorce lawyer of 72 whom older divorcing couples find especially helpful. He is no longer interested in cases involving custody--he figures that many of those battles will last longer than he will remain in practice. Johnson is a craftsman at drawing up prenuptial agreements for couples embarking on second marriages. There is no substitute in family law for experience, and Johnson has had plenty.

29. CAROL SCHRIER-POLAK (Bean, Kinney & Korman; 703-525-4000. $350/hour. VA). If you are a potential client with concerns about children, there's no better attorney in Virginia than Schrier-Polak, a world traveler who, in addition to her legal training, has a degree in social work. Her approach is result-oriented. She tries to figure out how you want things to turn out and then to pursue a strategy that will get you there. One expertise is "hybrid property," the tracing of marital versus separate interests in property.

30. MARTIN GANNON (Gannon & Cottrell; 703-836-2770. $450/hour. VA). At 71, Gannon is an irascible and determined presence in the Virginia divorce bar. Not every lawyer can rise above the fray, urge his client to be gracious, and offer to split everything--face it, some clients want blood. Few lawyers go about getting it more goodheartedly than Marty Gannon. The lawyer at various times for Washington play-callers Joe Theismann and Sonny Jurgensen, Gannon's advice to clients has been consistent for four decades: "Dump the chump."

31. RICHARD SHADYAC JR. (Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell; 703-671-5800. $325/hour. VA). Another Virginia divorce lawyer with a broad legal background is Falls Church native Rick Shadyac. He practiced general litigation with his father, Richard Shadyac Sr., before establishing his own practice in 1992. He joined Feldesman Tucker six years ago and now concentrates on family law. He tends to be blunt and practical--he knows the damage and expense that going to court can inflict, yet he can mix it up with the best of Virginia's bombers. Shadyac has been involved in several controversial cases involving "relocation"--when an ex-spouse tries to move out of an area with a child. He has been married for 22 years and has two teenage children.

32. CLAUDIA POTT (Ain & Bank; 202-530-3300. $325/hour. DC, MD). With a background in social work, "Dia" Pott is considered one of the more level-headed divorce lawyers in Washington. She will do everything possible to avoid a raucous, unnecessary court battle. Her husband, Peter Sherman, was for years one of the dominating presences in the Washington divorce bar. Sherman now is semiretired and on the adjunct faculty at American University. Pott is sometimes confused with her partner, Lauren Shea, who shares her philosophy that it is better to settle than to litigate. The biggest difference between them is that Shea practices mostly in Virginia, Pott in Maryland.

33. LINDA RAVDIN (Pasternak & Fidis; 301-656-8850. $400/hour. DC, MD, VA). No lawyer in Washington is more up to date on the making and breaking of prenuptial agreements than Ravdin. She has written several books on the topic and is adept at keeping inherited wealth out of the hands of a not-so-trusted spouse. Ravdin is an experienced professional in any number of domestic situations but especially in dealing with prenups.

34. RICHARD J. BYRD (Byrd Mische; 703-273-0500. $300/hour. DC, VA). A former engineer, Byrd made one of the more unusual midlife career shifts; his high-tech bent endears him to clients in the Reston-Dulles technology corridor. Along with Nancy, his wife of 47 years, Byrd, 66, owns a company that publishes divorce-related software. It won't sign the papers for you, but it does provide projections for such matters as spousal support and custody. Even rival attorneys say Byrd's software is now regarded as essential.

35. MARY PENCE (Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell; 202-466-8960. $325/hour. MD, DC). An upbeat attitude and an eye for a client's future are the hallmarks of Mary Pence's representation. She has little tolerance for clients who feel sorry for themselves. Her mantra is for the suffering spouse to get on his or her feet and get on with life. Besides handling the nuts and bolts of a divorce proceeding, Pence has helped clients enroll in classes, organize their finances, and set goals for the future.

36. KATHLEEN DUMAIS (Paley, Rothman, Goldstein, Rosenberg, Eig & Cooper; 301-656-7603. $250/hour. MD). The oldest of eight children, Dumais, 45, gained her skills as a mediator early. In 2002 she was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. Dumais handles every type of divorce case, settling more than half of them. She emphasizes doing the best thing for the family, even if that means talking a spouse out of trying to nail the other party.

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 02/01/2004 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles