Senior Associate, Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP in Sacramento
Area of Practice: Family Law
Year Graduated: 1999
Stephanie Bamberger's father is a lawyer, and even before she decided to go to law school many people predicted that she would eventually follow in his footsteps. Ms. Bamberger resisted the idea until after she had graduated from college, when she noticed how truly happy her father was with his work. This inspired her to pursue a career as a lawyer, and in 1996, she moved to Sacramento to begin her legal education at University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. She chose McGeorge in part because of its emphasis on practical experience and the strength of its clinical programs.
During her second and third years at McGeorge, Ms. Bamberger participated in the Landlord-Tenant Clinic and the [now discontinued] Civil Practice Clinic. At the clinics, she worked directly with clients and managed her own case load, which included family law and probate matters. She also met weekly with her supervising attorney and other students in the clinic to discuss their cases. Ms. Bamberger appreciated the personal nature of her clinical work, and it led to many of her favorite memories from her time at McGeorge.
In fact, it was Ms. Bamberger's supervising attorney at the Civil Practice Clinic, Cecilia Arnold, who helped her secure a position as a post-graduate law clerk for a probate attorney. In her first year and a half of practice, Ms. Bamberger handled a significant number of conservatorships—advocating for people who couldn't advocate for themselves—and also helped clients with estate issues.
In 2001, Ms. Bamberger began a staff attorney position at Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE), a non-profit organization in Sacramento. At WEAVE, Ms. Bamberger helped victims of domestic violence and sexual assault obtain restraining orders and counseled them on family law issues at low or no cost to them. In most cases, she was not the counsel of record for the people she helped. Rather, they represented themselves in court and Ms. Bamberger educated them about the law and their rights, guided them through the legal process, and helped them fill out the proper forms. She also dedicated a portion of her time to the temporary restraining order (TRO) workshop at the Sacramento Family Relations Courthouse when WEAVE began running it in 2002.
After almost four years as a staff attorney at WEAVE, Ms. Bamberger moved into a more supervisory role when she was promoted to Managing Attorney for the organization in 2005. At the end of 2009, Ms. Bamberger began her current job as an associate at Bartholomew & Wasznicky, a six-attorney firm dedicated solely to family law. There, Ms. Bamberger guides her clients through all aspects of their divorce cases. She also represents non-married people in custody disputes and related matters. Much of her time is spent returning phone calls and emails from clients, since she places a priority on educating her clients and making sure they understand what is happening with their cases. When she's not communicating with her current clients, Ms. Bamberger spends a significant amount of time meeting with potential clients, reviewing files, and appearing in court. While most of her cases settle, she has taken at least two cases to trial each year since she joined the firm.
Because settlement is never guaranteed, Ms. Bamberger recommends that students who are interested in family law take trial advocacy classes and a course on civil pre-trial litigation. She observes that although family law attorneys aren't stereotypically thought of as litigators, it is important for them to know the rules of evidence and civil procedure, as well as how to conduct discovery and otherwise prepare for litigation. "These are all things we do in family law," she notes. She also highly recommends that students take advantage of the legal clinics at McGeorge to gain practical experience.
When she graduated from law school, Ms. Bamberger did not plan to practice family law. However, a career as a family law attorney flowed naturally from her work at WEAVE. Switching from a public interest setting to private practice required some adjustment for her—mostly because she now has to keep track of billable hours and has full responsibility for each of her cases—but she finds her work at the firm rewarding on several levels. For one, she enjoys being able to bounce ideas off of her colleagues, which she wasn't always able to do at WEAVE, where there were very few other attorneys.
Indeed, Ms. Bamberger genuinely enjoys her work as a family law attorney, despite the strong emotions and intense stress that most of her clients are experiencing. Family law, she explains, is "interesting, difficult occasionally—depending on your client and the opposing attorney." Often, she sees people when they are at their worst. This makes her work very challenging but also very satisfying. "Hopefully at the end [of my cases], I get to see people at their best because I've gotten them through a difficult situation," she says.