Joy M. Feinberg
Chicago. The third largest city in the U.S. and home to 2.7 million residents. It’s the place where Walt Disney, Bob Fosse, Vince Vaughn, and a spate of other equally spirited business people started their careers. It’s home to Wrigley Field and the birthplace of the railroad. It is a city built on ingenuity and the very lifeblood of the entrepreneurs who have huddled within the city’s borders for hundreds of years. And these are just the people Joy Feinberg loves to represent.
Like her celebrated Chicagoan counterparts, Joy is well known for her contributions to the city and its populace. She’s an extraordinary divorce attorney. A fierce advocate. An empathetic mentor. A symbol of empowerment for women. And she is a powerhouse partner in her new firm, Davis Friedman, LLP, a divorce firm that dates back to 1946. Along with a team of formidable attorneys, Joy represents business owners, C-suite executives, and wealthy professionals in divorce, guiding them and protecting their interests. In her own illustrious words, “Business is personal, especially in this city, and when a business gets involved in a divorce, there is nothing more personal than that.”
If you looked at Joy’s CV, you’d find that she has practiced family law for nearly four decades and that she is skilled in trial work, strategic theory, writing and motion work, and expert depositions. You’d also surmise that she is a creative thinker. But what isn’t catalogued on paper is her firm’s talent for confidence-building. It is an integral part of her acumen because Joy knows just how essential this is to her clients. And, if you’re keeping a tally of her achievements, note that she is the winner of the Michael Cohen Award for excellence in legal publishing and writing, and the Samuel S. Berger Award for excellence in the practice of family law.
Cue the lights. Initiate the overture. This is Joy Feinberg.
Joy, why did you choose to practice family law, in particular?
I chose it because I didn’t believe that the way family law was being practiced when I started in the field was being done in a way that was both financially savvy and healthy for the entire family, because the family goes on. It goes on in a reconstituted manner, but it goes on. I also believed that far too often the emotional underpinnings and needs of people were just being glossed over, and I felt that if the lawyer didn’t understand what was truly motivating the client, you wouldn’t get the best possible result. I’ve been doing this for 42 years, and I love it to this day.
One of your areas of specialization is representing business owners and high-level executives. What compelled you to focus on these groups?
People who take on the world and create a business and those who rise highest in the world of business are intelligent, creative, driven, capable, and adaptable. These individuals are exciting to represent. Often, they bring “vision” to what they do and inspire my personal and professional development. I bring back ideas to enhance our processes and streamline our procedures. In addition, these individuals often marry intelligent and engaging spouses who share the concept of propelling the business forward. While I enjoyed the custody work, which I still engage in, the world of business is exciting—thrilling even. I “get” business. I love the entrepreneurial aspect of Chicago and how many dynamic leaders we have here. The way people make money is diverse and fascinating. When you love what you do, which I do, it’s a bright day every day.
Tell us about your Women Empowering Women program.
Women Empowering Women was put together by Meighan Harmon, Ed Schroeder, Jim Godbout, and me to teach the financial aspects of divorce law to other female practitioners. I’ve seen far too many firms teaching their male associates and leaving women in the dark. The program not only focused on women, but allowed them to be heard and ask as many questions as they wanted until we were sure they had completely grasped the concepts we were teaching. Some of my contemporaries asked why we only let women in, and I answered that I wanted an environment where the women felt safe and uninhibited by the typical workplace atmosphere. I was told I was a sexist. I simply said, “Yes, and damned proud of it!” The “old boy” network has been around for years. Here’s the Women’s Network! We help each other.
Will you share some details about your mentoring?
I do a lot of mentoring for our staff as well as others in the legal field. My colleague and I authored a paper titled, Why We Mentor Our Associates, in which we expound on why mentoring is important and what can be achieved. For instance, we train our associates on how to think critically, which involves learning the law from the bottom up, not just reading the statute. In short, mentorship is a win-win for everyone, including our family law clients, and it’s emotionally and financially rewarding. Whenever you teach, you learn. Sometimes people thank me, and I often don’t know what I’ve done. I just enjoy helping people.
You’re very active in community and educational endeavors outside of your practice as an accomplished author and as a past-president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Foundation. Tell us a little bit about this.
The Foundation was established to fund projects that help those affected by divorce—children, abused spouses, centers that assist with legal aid, and the like. We’re an organization of about 1,500 lawyers around the country. In 30 years, we’ve raised over $3 million and have given away hundreds of thousands of dollars to deserving organizations all over the country. I believe strongly in charity and in this climate, we can see the great need. I’m very proud of us!
Joy M. Feinberg
Davis Friedman, LLP
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