Shoshana’s Schiff’s Dual Passions: Law and Service
Schiff met her law firm partner, Richard Trenk, when she was a student and he led the Essex County Bar Association. They teamed together on pro bono projects and she later joined his law firm, Trenk, DiPasquale, Della Fera & Sodono, P.C.
Seton Hall Law will honor Shoshana Schiff ’98 at the 2016 Alumni Dinner Dance, presenting her with the inaugural Exemplary Service Award. She will be honored along with Ronald J. Riccio ’71, Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus, who will receive the Distinguished Graduate Award. This is the second of a series highlighting our 2016 Alumni Dinner Dance honorees. We hope you will join us to celebrate and reconnect with fellow graduates on May 6, 2016, 6:00 p.m., at The Grove in Cedar Grove.
Enter Shoshana Schiff’s office at law firm Trenk, DiPasquale, Della Fera & Sodono, P.C. and, amidst the collection of souvenirs, photographs of family and friends, and career achievements, rests a framed sign inscribed with the words of Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Shoshana Schiff has always interwoven her professional path and her dedication to serving the surrounding community. She retains deep ties to Seton Hall Law, she relishes leadership roles in regional bar associations, and she has embraced service to such non-profit organizations as Partners for Women and Justice. These dual passions, instilled in her from childhood, define her today.
“It's never obligation,” Schiff said, “and it's not about networking. It's about making a difference in the community that we’re a part of, giving back in whatever way we can. My inclination, always, is to help others and give of myself because I think it's an important thing to do.”
Schiff always knew she would attend law school. She was inspired by her weekend visits with her father, Daniel Schiff, to his law firm, which he co-managed with his brother. “I remember, when I was in grade school, I used to alphabetize the ledger cards for him,” she recalled with a chuckle. “And when I got to be tall enough, I filed them.” She worked in the office during summer breaks after camp and during holidays, training herself to take on every job in the office so she could learn how to run a law practice.
While she applied to law schools throughout the nation, Schiff soon realized, “If I wanted to practice law in New Jersey, Seton Hall was the place to be.” Her first visit affirmed that Seton Hall was the right choice. “I met people who feel a connection to the school, and to one another, and they are bound by that connection,” she recalled. “That sense of community is extremely important to me.”
Schiff hit her stride in law school quickly, throwing herself into extracurricular activities. “Every organization that I could get involved with, I did: the Jewish Law Society, the Women’s Law Forum, the Legislative Journal. I came home during the first week of school and announced I’d joined IALSA. My dad asked, 'What's IALSA?’ He was a little surprised when I told him it was the Irish American Law Students Association.”
As a member of the Women’s Law Forum, Schiff was instrumental in planning and producing a groundbreaking day-long conference for women attorneys in New Jersey, including continuing legal education programs. The event culminated in the presentation of the Sandra Day O’Connor Medal of Honor to its namesake, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. “There were hundreds of guests in attendance,” Schiff reflected, “and Dean Riccio said it was one of the greatest days in the history of the Law School.”
It was her approach to service that led Schiff to her role at Trenk, DiPasquale, where she works closely with founding Partner Richard Trenk. Schiff has been a Partner at the firm for nine years.
“Professor Paula Franzese introduced me to Richard when he was President of the Essex County Bar in 1996. At the time, Richard was looking for opportunities to get student leaders involved in volunteer and pro bono projects,” Schiff recalled. She helped him and Professor Franzese produce an auction to benefit the Discovery Charter School in Newark and the Kids in Business Art program, which instilled student artists with entrepreneurial skills. The auction offered artwork by students at the Discovery Charter School, and Schiff solicited donated services from Seton Hall Law professors.
Schiff also assisted Trenk in producing a groundbreaking pro bono services training program, held at Seton Hall Law, for lawyers and students to assist people suffering from AIDS, and in need of legal assistance. “Richard’s vision was to enable lawyers, judges, and students to understand AIDS-related legal issues such as bankruptcy and family law,” Schiff said. “It was a quid pro quo: if you got the training, you agreed to take a case pro bono. As a student, I got to help a woman who was living with AIDS by filing bankruptcy for her, and I took other cases for people living with AIDS after I graduated.”
Recognizing Schiff’s legal acumen and their shared commitment to service, Trenk invited Schiff to work in his new law firm during her third year. After graduation, Schiff clerked for Judge Robert Feldman in New Jersey Superior Court in Monmouth County and then returned to the law firm as an Associate. Schiff is grateful for the firm’s support of her volunteer service. “I wanted to be at a place that would support my community involvement and Trenk, DiPasquale is unusual in that regard,” she said. “Even during my first year as an Associate, Richard encouraged me to get involved. He said ‘If you want to go join Essex Bar, or the State Bar, or if you want to join a non-profit organization, do it all and I'll support you.’ And he has, throughout my career. The firm has too, absolutely.”
In fact, in October 2015, New Jersey Monthly presented the entire law firm with the Great Oak Award, presented annually to various organizations throughout the state that engage in exemplary levels of philanthropy.
Richard Trenk is proud of Schiff’s volunteerism, especially as it reflects on the firm’s culture on the whole. “Shoshana's leadership, compassion, and energy are extraordinary,” Trenk said. “She's always willing to go above and beyond to help her colleagues, the community, and our clients. I have never met anyone as committed as Shoshana to the noble goals of the legal profession and helping others.”
Despite her extensive caseload, Schiff has maintained the same pace as a volunteer. Among her many commitments, she serves on the Lawyer’s Advisory Committee for both the U.S. District Court and for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for New Jersey, and has been on the Board of the International Women’s Insolvency and Restructuring Confederation, New Jersey chapter, since 2008.
Seton Hall Law has also benefited from Schiff’s continued connection. She has served on the Alumni Council since 1999, chaired her 10-year reunion committee in 2008, and regularly attends various Seton Hall Law celebrations, from the annual Diversity Banquet to the Women’s Law Forum's Woman of Substance Award Reception.
Schiff also serves on the Board of Trustees of Partners for Women and Justice, a Montclair-based organization providing legal assistance to low-income women who are victims of domestic violence. She was introduced to the organization when Professor Franzese was honored in 2008, and she asked Schiff to serve on her Dinner Committee. “It’s impactful to me when I read the stories in our Trustee reports about how these women have suffered,” Schiff explained. “When these women make the courageous first step to stand up to their abuser, they have an ally in Partners who gives them the legal assistance they need to get away from their abuser, move on with their lives, and make a better life for themselves and their children. Partners helps people who are in true need, and that's why I care about the organization so much.”
Schiff recognizes the deep spiritual satisfaction she derives from her extensive service. “I am not interested in being thanked. I just want to make a difference. I give to charitable causes because I am helping to improve the lives of people in need. That is a good thing,” she said. “I take leadership roles in professional organizations because I want to give back to my community. If I could, I would give my time to a million different things. I just think it's important to give.”