Maria Berger is the founder of Berger Law Firm, LLC.
What’s your primary practice area?
Family law, including mediations.
How has your practice evolved over the last few years?
I began mediating family law cases about five years ago. The perspective I have gained from being a mediator has really helped my overall ability to problem-solve for my family clients and has made my practice much more satisfying. I have also expanded the practice with the addition of another full-time attorney, and I really enjoy having day-to-day interaction with a colleague.
From your perspective, how can lawyers adapt to the changing legal profession?
Remember that no matter how much experience you have, you can always learn from someone else – including less-experienced or younger attorneys. It’s more important than ever that lawyers stay up-to-date with changing technology. It impacts how you interact with clients and develop business, how you gather evidence, and how you organize your practice.
Why is civility important to the practice of law?
Civility is the most important “non-legal” skill for an attorney to learn. That is because, at its core, civility is about good communication. If you are yelling, intimidating, or harassing your colleagues, they’re not going to hear your message and vice versa. Being able to stay calm in the face of opposing counsel’s storm is usually the first step to de-escalating the conflict and having a productive dialogue. Just recently, an opposing counsel called and simply yelled at me and then hung up. I was sorely tempted to do the same the next time we spoke. I eventually regained my composure, and we were able to come to terms.
What advice do you have for young lawyers?
Practice, practice, practice being calm and civil with opposing counsel no matter what (it can be REALLY hard!). It does not make you weak, and it does not make your position weak, so don’t buy into that myth. Never be afraid to ask questions – you don’t know it all, and you don’t have to seem like you do!
What do you do in your free time?
I love to read, I dance a little bit, and I rest a lot. This job is challenging, you have to make sure to be kind to yourself.
Our Lawyer Spotlight recognizes attorneys throughout Illinois who are admired for their professionalism and civility. Check out more interviews with attorneys like Maria Berger here.