Debra Weisberg ’93 believes that her dedication to giving back to her community defines her career choices. She is a partner at Morristown law firm Donahue Hagan Klein and Weisberg LLC, which specializes in family law – divorces, custody issues, and domestic violence. Weisberg is also actively involved in the Morris County Bar Association and its philanthropic arm, the Morris County Bar Foundation.
Growing up in Parsippany, Weisberg’s father served as an aide to State Senator Robert Martin – now a Seton Hall Law professor – and as a member of her hometown’s school board and the town council. Her father’s commitment to “giving back” affirmed Weisberg’s decision to become a lawyer.
“I enjoyed writing and public speaking, and my parents would say I enjoyed arguing!,” Weisberg explains. “Because of my father’s work, I attended political events from the time I was a teenager. All of these elements inspired me to pursue a law degree.”
With such strong ties to the state, Weisberg’s choice to earn an undergraduate degree at Rutgers, and a law degree at Seton Hall, reflected her desire to pursue a career close to home. It was during her clerkship with Judge Catherine Langlois that Weisberg found her vocation.
“Family law wasn’t my first choice – in fact, Judge Langlois was reassigned from the Civil Law to the Family Law part just as I became a clerk. But that experience, and the Family Law course I took in law school with Professor James Boesky, taught me how this practice combines an understanding of the law with real compassion. My work presents the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. But it offers me, as an attorney, the true ability to help people through the most difficult time of their lives.”
Weisberg describes the delicate balance of providing both emotional and legal support during divorce: “When a client engages me, I’m an advocate for that party. But it’s important to consider the needs of the entire family, especially if children are involved. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to be by a client’s side to the end of the process. Often I’ll hear from a client after the settlement, and it’s gratifying to see how positive their lives are now, how successfully they have moved on.”
Seton Hall Law remains a core component of Weisberg’s own personal and professional community. “There’s an added advantage to earning a law degree where I planned to practice,” she says. “My classmates, many of whom I met my first few days of law school 23 years ago, are still my greatest source of business referrals. Seton Hall Law is known for its strong legal practice curriculum – research, writing, persuasion and advocacy – but just as important, the professors and deans who mentored me always emphasized the importance of building my network.” Weisberg still sustains her law school community by attending class reunions and other alumni professional development and social activities.
Today, through her leadership in the Morris County Bar, Weisberg pays her network back. In 2008-09, she served as president of the Bar Foundation, and in 2010-11, she became President of the Bar Association, where Dean Patrick Hobbs spoke on her behalf at the installation dinner. Weisberg also helps Seton Hall Law students build their own networks through her service as a mentor to 3L students since the founding of the Law School’s Alumni Mentoring program in 2010. Weisberg has enjoyed her volunteer experience and now recruits fellow alumni to join her in giving back to the Law School in this way.
Would she consider following her father into politics? As a parent of two young sons, ages 11 and 7, Weisberg has it ruled out – for the time being. She says, “It’s enough right now to build my practice and focus on my family. My partners, and my family are both incredibly supportive, helping me achieve a balance between my home and my career. I really do believe you can ‘have it all.’ It is not always easy, but it makes me feel that much more grateful for it.”