Feb. 2016 | St. Louis Magazine
St. Louis Magazine | Feb. 2016
Hais, Hais & Goldberger is a full-service family-law firm, limiting its practice to complex divorce cases and modifications of decrees, custody, property division and support, business and professional practice valuations, stock options, tax-related divorce issues, pension problems, and enforcement of decrees. Its core staff of fulltime attorneys and paralegals has provided in-depth client services, meticulous case preparation, and complete litigation management throughout the firm’s 36-year history. Additionally, the firm employs an extended group of financial experts, tax- and pension benefits professionals, therapists, psychologists, and vocational experts to provide the highest level of preparation possible in its trial presentations.
Since launching the firm in 1979, founder Susan M. Hais has represented many of St. Louis’ most prominent citizens from a great variety of professions and occupations and has been personally responsible for the establishment of an impressive array of legal precedents in the areas of divorce law, child custody, benefits, grandparents’ rights, property division, and spousal support.
Samuel J. Hais, before joining the firm, was a judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit, St. Louis County, where he was a founding member and judge of the Family Court of St. Louis County for many years. Samuel and Susan have both written and lectured extensively in the area of family law.
In 2007, the firm was proud to welcome partner Elliot Goldberger, who has practiced law for more than 25 years, concentrating on family law.
Most recently, Erin Zielinski has been named a partner of the firm. She is a veteran of the practice of family law with 15-plus years of experience. Rounding out the associate attorneys are Pamela Ciskowski and Dzenana Delic. Very soon, Michelle Weldon will join the firm. She has recently graduated and shows great promise for the future.
The guiding principle of Hais, Hais & Goldberger has always been to provide services in the practice area of family law in the most effective manner, to clients with the utmost level of professional integrity, at the fairest and most reasonable cost.
The practice keeps as its credo the words of Abraham Lincoln: “Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith, let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.”
Feb 4, 2016 | Local Advocates' Specialty: Family Law - Hais, Hais & Goldberger | Ladue News
Robyn Dexter | Ladue News | Feb 4, 2016
Law is a complex field. Susan and Sam Hais of Hais, Hais & Goldberger, P.C. know this, with a combined 60-plus years of practice in family law between the two of them. To the pair, practicing and keeping up with just one field of law is of the utmost importance.
Hais, Hais & Goldberger is a law firm dedicated exclusively to the practice of family law in the greater St. Louis area. Its attorneys represent individuals in dissolution-of-marriage proceedings, legal separations, paternity cases, motions to modify child custody or support, proceedings to enforce existing decrees, child-relocation cases and family-law appeals.
Susan says it’s often difficult to keep up with areas of law, since they’re changing all the time.
“One of the reasons why it’s really important to have just a family-law firm, rather than one that does a little bit of everything, is you have attorneys who do just family-law work,” she says. “It’s much easier to focus.”
Since Susan and her husband handle hundreds of cases, they’re able to assess patterns and fine-tune their skills with each case.
“The world is a complex place,” Sam says. “The law changes frequently. In order to rein in any possible confusion, it’s necessary to keep up with the law. The devil is in the details.”
The Haises call their firm a “boutique” operation – a method that seems to work well for them.
“We plan on keeping our model,” Sam says. “It’s working magnificently for us. This past year has seen yet again another increase in the size and quality of our practice.”
Although they want to keep their firm small, they’ve added new lawyers when necessary to handle the workload. They’ve even promoted one of their young lawyers, Erin Zielinsky, to partner.
“She does a very good job,” Sam says. “We’re very proud of her. We’re going to be adding another lawyer as soon as she takes the bar exam, too.”
Different lawyers have different ways of dealing with a file. Susan and Sam oversee every file that comes into the office, but Susan calls herself a “midfielder,” of sorts.
“The ‘ball’ comes in, and I get it out to other people to make it work,” she says. “We’ve perfected a style of practice that really seems to work.”
Hais, Hais & Goldberger attorneys have become so good at handling cases that oftentimes they get referrals from other law firms. This is generally the case with high-conflict cases, which the Hais, Hais & Goldberger team is able to handle.
Susan says that sometimes, a client will think the case will be resolved quickly, and it turns into a high-conflict situation. In other cases, a high-conflict case is easily resolved.
“You never actually know until a case begins,” she says.
All in all, the Haises say they feel very fortunate and grateful to the public, their clients and friends for the trust they place in the firm’s attorneys.
“We want to reaffirm that we intend to continue to justify and satisfy our clients’ expectations,” Sam says. “We’ll be there for our clients and make them feel safe and be safe until they are.”
222 S. Central Ave., Suite 600, Clayton, 314-326-4885, hhg-law.com
Sep 22, 2011 | Hais Hais Goldberger & Coyne | Ladue News
They’re highly regarded in the St. Louis law community, as well as by former clients who keep in touch for years with cards and family photos. She’s been practicing family law for more than three decades; he was a family court judge for 26 years before joining her law firm in 2002. Impressive longevity, indeed, but Susan and Sam Hais seem to know the secret to successful long-term partnerships: The couple just celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary.
Hais, Hais, Goldberger & Coyne, which Susan began in 1979 as a solo practitioner, is devoted exclusively to family law. While some couples might wonder about working side-by-side with a spouse, Susan says there are many advantages. “Family law often deals with gender issues, so of course, it’s good to have a male perspective. But for us, in particular, what’s really nice is that Sam also sees things through a judge’s eyes,” she says. “He can look at a case and say If I were the judge, this is what I would have done.” It helps us understand what approach might produce the most desirable results for our clients.”
Sam is equally enthusiastic about Susan’s perspective and knowledge. “We trust each other’s motives, experience and judgment implicitly,” he says. “Family law deals with the most serious of human interaction, and I feel tremendously fortunate to have the person I trust most in the world right at my side.” After so many years together, he adds, they can almost finish each other’s sentences. “We understand how the other one thinks, so we don’t need to go into lengthy explanations. In fact, I’ll frequently go into one of my long explanations and Susan will just give me that look that says I know, Sam, I know. It reminds me that I don’t always need to explain everything to a fare-thee-well.”
Although the practice of family law can be stressful, the couple agrees that it also is very rewarding. “I have so many reminders, so often,” Susan says. “One former client sends me a new school picture of his daughter every year, so I can see her growing up. He always adds a note, thanking me: If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have had all this time with my daughter.”
For Sam, who was a ‘charter member’ of the family court when the Missouri legislature created the court in the early ’90s, the personal interaction is the best part of the job. “There’s a genuine feeling of warmth and appreciation you get from clients when you’re fortunate enough to achieve a really successful result for them,” he explains. “They know you care about them, you’re listening to them and you’re doing your utmost to achieve justice for them. That’s the great reward, the client contact.”
It is somehow appropriate that a family law firm would include not just one, but three married couples on the legal team. “We have Joe Lambson and his wife, Julie Hixson-Lambson, and Amy Dennis and her husband, Robert,” notes Susan. It makes for a harmonious practice, she adds. “We’re a big family, dedicated to helping other families.”
Apr 21, 2011 | Finding The Right Attorney
Divorce is never easy: Two people are dividing up their entire lives, with children, homes and assets involved. The process can be long and difficult, so it is imperative to choose the right attorney from the onset.
“You want to make sure you know what you’re signing up for — that you know the way your lawyer practices — and pick the one who best fits your needs,” says Margo Green of Green Cordonnier & House.
When choosing a divorce attorney, the first key is to find someone who has extensive experience in the areas of family law and divorce, according to Susan Hais, a divorce attorney with Hais, Hais, Goldberger, & Coyne. “It’s not just about having experience as a lawyer, it’s about being a lawyer who is particularly experienced in that field,” she explains. “You don’t want someone who’s just a sporadic practitioner.”
A client also should make sure that his or her potential attorney is willing to go to court and litigate, if it comes to that, instead of just settling or mediating the case. “We all have to be excellent negotiators, but we also have to be excellent trial lawyers,” Green says.
If a divorce case goes to trial, the best divorce attorney to have is one who is trusted by the court and can reasonably present the case, says Kirk Stange of Stange Law Firm. “I worry that sometimes there is a belief out there that an aggressive attorney is what a lot of people should look for,” Stange notes. “I think judges are looking for an attorney who can give them an accurate picture of the case. If you’re aggressive all of the time and take positions that are on the fringe, the judges may tune you out over time.”
Having a reasonable and experienced divorce attorney can be especially important when dealing with custody and large asset issues, which quickly can become contentious. A lot of domestic relations attorneys choose not to handle custody cases because “custody work is the highest-conflict, since it means the most,” Hais says. “The cases are considered messy, and you need to have a lot of energy, a thick skin, and be willing to fight for your client.”
When a client has a lot of assets to protect, he or she should look for attorneys who have an array of experts at their disposal to appraise the property, review investment and retirement accounts, and evaluate tax and insurance issues. “I wouldn’t want someone to ‘cut their teeth’ on an expensive, high-conflict divorce,” Hais says.
Clients involved in contentious divorces need lawyers who can help them focus on their goals, rather than any sort of retribution toward their spouses, experts say. And if those goals are unreasonable, the right attorney should be upfront with their clients. “You want an attorney who is going to tell it to you straight and not amp up the case,” Stange says. “Clients don’t need to be just told what they want to hear in order for the fees to escalate, when in reality that outcome may not be likely, given the circumstances.”
The cost of an attorney is an important aspect to consider, according to Green, and she acknowledges that “no divorce lawyer who is honest can tell you how much a divorce will cost, but they can at least give you an estimate of how much they think the litigation could cost.”
Each attorney agreed that unreasonable rates and attorneys who are inaccessible and fail to return phone calls are all red flags to watch out for. And while an attorney may not become a client’s close friend, the correct lawyer can ease the difficulty of divorce. “You are not hiring a divorce lawyer to be your best friend,” Green notes. “You’re hiring an attorney who is skilled and experienced in reaching the results that are in your best interest — that’s what counts.”
Mar 23, 2011 | Hais, Hais, Goldberger & Coyne | Town & Style
Tony Di Martino | Town & Style St. Louis Magazine | March 23, 2011
Some are angry and bitter; others are devastated; others are simply relieved. But few people are indifferent when they walk into an attorney’s office seeking a divorce. “Divorce can be an emotional minefield,” acknowledges attorney Susan Hais of Hais, Hais, Goldberger & Coyne. “Everyone reacts differently, so we do a lot more listening than talking. That’s the only way to determine what the issues are, and what the client wants and needs. It’s our job to be the voice of reason during traumatic times. Sometimes that means saying, ‘No, you’re not entitled to the entire marital estate, even though your spouse broke your heart.”
Hais and her eight-attorney team focus exclusively on family law. Backed by experienced legal assistants and an attentive support staff, the firm tackles complex divorce litigation. “Life is more complicated than ever, and so is divorce,” she says. “These days, it’s not as simple as divvying up the pots and pans.” Divorce law has become increasingly technical and multifaceted; “We’re constantly analyzing tax issues and complex financial interests, including the evaluation of business partnerships, corporations and professional practices, as well as the division of pensions and appraisals of real estate,” she explains. “You have to be in the field full time to keep up.
Feb 21, 2011 | Divorce Best Foot Foward | Ladue News
Joan Lerch | Ladue News | February 21, 2011
Often described as one of life’s most difficult experiences, divorce disrupts families and finances, and if the process is complicated with hostility and anger, it becomes even harder for everyone involved. Family law attorneys, familiar with the intense emotions that most often accompany the dissolution of a marriage, have advice for couples facing this challenge.
“The biggest mistake people make is letting their emotions overtake their good judgment,” says Joyce Capshaw of Carmody MacDonald. “A divorce is the breakup of a partnership. It doesn’t feel like a business deal to the couple, but that’s exactly what it is. It’s two partners going their separate ways and they must determine how they are going to split everything up.” Although that is the most prudent approach, Capshaw acknowledges that it can be a significant challenge. “The level of difficulty will be measured by the reasons for the divorce, and how high that ‘emotional thermometer’ is.”
Above all, Capshaw advises, a parent with children must be very careful not to involve kids in negative conversations about the other parent. “Keep the kids out of the fray,” she cautions. “I tell my clients, You chose this person to be the mother or father of your children, and you must support that choice now. It’s important to remember that kids love both of their parents, and the kids aren’t the ones getting a divorce.”
And although it’s easier said than done, resisting the urge to act on those angry emotions is critical. “It’s common when clients come in for the first time,” says Justin Cordonnnier of Green Cordonnier & House. “The hard part is getting them to calm down. They’re angry and they ask What nasty things can we do to get even? But it’s important to start slowly. Later on, if we need to manage the case more aggressively to get the other side’s attention, we can do that.”
Like Capshaw, Cordonnier emphasizes the importance of protecting the children. “Don’t use the kids as the vehicle for getting even with your spouse,” he cautions. “If you expect them to make judgments about ‘who’s the bad guy,’ you are forcing them to choose between you.”
Another frequent mistake is an effort to hide marital assets. “First of all, if your client tells you that they’re hiding something, they’ve created an ethical violation for you as their attorney,” Cordonnier explains. “And the division of marital property is a matter of discretion with the court, so if the judge believes that someone is not being forthcoming, that person is going to be penalized.”
The initial visit to an attorney may seem like the first step, but there are decisions to be made before you walk through the law office doors. “Some people come in and they are very focused—they have made up their mind and they want a divorce,” says Susan Hais of Hais, Hais, Goldberger, & Coyne. “But people are often focused on superficial things, especially initial costs. It’s sort of a shame, because some lawyers want to attract the client, and they don’t tell them honestly just how expensive a litigation can be.”
Dec 23, 2010 | Finding A Good Fit
Lisa Watson | Ladue News | December 23, 2010
Even the most amicable of divorces can be fraught with emotion and difficulties, so it’s important that you have an attorney on your side whom you can trust. “You have to be comfortable telling them the worst, most personal things that are going on in your life,” says Susan Hais of Hais, Hais, Goldberger, & Coyne. “You don’t want someone who seems apathetic or dismissive.”
As veteran divorce attorneys, Hais and her husband and business partner, Sam Hais, and their partners Elliott Goldberger, Kerry Coyne, Amy Dennis and Robert Dennis occasionally meet with people who are unhappy with their choice of attorney. Usually, Susan Hais says, this problem can be avoided by the client doing some research before making a decision. “A doctor, therapist, clergyman, friend or family member can be a good referral source,” she says.
“When someone comes highly recommended, what is repeated most often about them is that they’ll go to bat for you no matter what. That they’ll put a client’s concerns uppermost is a characteristic that make people sit up and notice,” Sam says. “It’s usually a matter of getting what you pay for—value received, in other words.”
At the first meeting with a lawyer, there are several questions worth asking, Susan notes. The first thing to consider is whether the lawyer truly focuses on family law. “A lot of people say they do family work, but it’s not really their concentration; you really have to do just that,” she says. “The field is complicated. New cases come down every week, and we keep up with them. You need to be in the field 100 percent of the time.”
If the entire firm deals solely with family law, that can be a bonus as well, Sam says. “Here, we have a weekly meeting where we discuss many of the cases that we deal with, with the entire staff,” he says. “The client gets the knowledge and wisdom of all eight of our lawyers, as opposed to just one, as it would be if they were dealing with a solo practitioner or a lawyer at a large firm.”
Getting a lawyer with extensive courtroom experience is vital as well, Susan says. “You absolutely do not want a lawyer who is afraid to go into a courtroom,” she says. “It’s not that you want a domestic relations litigator because you expect to be litigating necessarily, but it is a wonderful insurance policy.” A lawyer with more litigation experience often has a better knowledge of each judge’s inclinations regarding various issues that might arise, she says. “Each judge is different, and it’s very important to know who is who.” A lawyer who knows the judge’s stance might be able to better advise the client.
“Also ask, Are you going to be my lawyer or are you going to turn me over to someone else?” Susan says. Some law firms have one person dedicated to bringing in business, who then turns over the case to another lawyer. If you are comfortable with the lawyer from the first meeting, you want to keep contact with that person throughout the case, she says.
Building strong attorney-client relationships has been key to their firm’s success, Sam says. “We sincerely appreciate our clients for making our work for them so rewarding and fulfilling.
Nov 15, 2010 | Containing Costs | Ladue News
Joan Lerch | Ladue News | November 15, 2010
A difficult economy can mean difficult choices that seem to accumulate faster than unpaid bills. But when a couple is divorcing, the financial stress increases if they cannot settle their differences without litigation. “When issues cannot be resolved,” explains Susan Hais of Hais, Hais, Goldberger & Coyne, “the cost of the divorce proceedings can escalate rapidly, and finding the funds to pay those costs can be problematic. Since one spouse usually controls the purse strings, it’s not a ‘level playing field’ in terms of who pays what for the lawsuit.” Arguing over who pays compounds the problem, she notes. “Often there will be extensive litigation about just finding enough funds to litigate. It’s a waste of time and money.”
Even though national statistics indicate a downturn in the divorce rate because couples ‘can’t afford’ to get divorced, Hais has not seen that here. “We haven’t seen a decrease, but I believe motions to modify are on the rise.” High unemployment rates impact divorce settlements already in place, she explains, often requiring a return to the courtroom. “So litigation is affected in St. Louis, perhaps because we are near the top 10 percent nationwide in unemployment rate.”
Hais says the bump in litigation could also be attributed to “a sense of unreality about the economy. If, for example, the husband had been the bigger income earner and is now unemployed or underemployed, and the wife has difficulty coming to terms with that, it must all be proven, and that creates the desire to litigate on the part of some clients,” she explains.
Hais also reports a state of ‘economic warfare’ in the legal system. “Lawyers are reaching new heights of incivility to one another and even professional jealousy, which sometimes, regrettably, causes them to ‘go negative’ about their fellow attorneys,” Hais says.
She is convinced there’s a better way, and advocates a comprehensive plan to address the funding of litigation in contested family court cases. “We believe it would help both sides understand that they are spending money to argue over money. It’s wasteful and unnecessary,” she insists. “We prefer a process that would explain the modification details to the judge in the beginning, with an estimate of the fees involved. Then have a specific marital asset or amount of money set aside in a fund, earmarked for those costs.” The concept has been discussed before, Hais says, but she hopes to help develop a workable plan that could be routinely implemented in the litigation process.
Although the goal is to reduce litigation, Hais says that people should not fear litigation per se. “Sometimes litigation is the best answer,” she says. “We always try to resolve the issues first, work with the other side and make a determination of how close we can get. But if you’re just too far apart you have no choice but to litigate.” Hais says that in some instances, litigation can be a positive experience. “You tell your story to a judge, the judge listens, and resolves it. It ends up being a good thing.”
Hais and her partners have adapted their fee structure in recognition of the economic downturn and its impact on their clients. “You see the struggle across the economic spectrum, and we are empathetic to those difficulties. We want our clients to know that the financial details can be worked out.” She is proud of her firm’s teamwork and loyalty in the midst of economic tough times.
Jul 22, 2010 | Mediation v. Litigation | Split Decision
Joan Lerch | Ladue News | July 22, 2013
If a marriage is irrevocably headed for divorce, there is an option for couples hoping to avoid litigation, says attorney Alan Freed of Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal. Freed is trained as a mediator, and works with couples who want to settle their divorce amicably, without the acrimony that often accompanies courtroom proceedings.
“Divorce is a problem to be solved, not a battle to be waged,” he says. “That’s what mediation is all about—it’s a problem-solving approach.” When a husband and wife meet with a mediator, he explains, they have an opportunity to explore complicated issues in depth and make decisions about how they want to proceed, rather than have a judge decide the terms of the dissolution.
“Divorces are fundamentally different from other litigated cases like trials,” Freed explains. “Those trials resolve issues that have already happened, so litigation is appropriate because there is no stake in a future relationship. But divorcing couples will have an ongoing relationship if children are involved, and even if there aren’t any kids, they may just prefer to iron out the details between themselves before they go to court. That’s where an experienced mediator comes in.”
It’s important to understand that a mediated divorce does not bypass the courtroom, says attorney Susan Hais of Hais, Hais, Goldberger & Coyne. “You still have to use the court system and it’s not cheaper, as many people presume,” she says. ”In fact, the problem with mediation is that it can be a very expensive process, because you’re paying your attorneys in addition to your mediator. Divorce is like a big puzzle with many emotions and complex issues.” Hais believes that experienced lawyers can work well with each other and bring parties to an agreement efficiently. “Good lawyers say, Are we that far apart? The important thing is to settle from a position of strength. You must know your case and be willing to litigate if necessary.”
Feb 25, 2010 | Legal Corner: Alimony | Ladue News
Tony DiMartino | Ladue News | February 25, 2010
Well-heeled publisher Peter Brant has to pay his soon-to-be ex-wife, former Victoria’s Secret model Stephanie Seymour, $270,000 a month in alimony and child support. Michael Jordan reportedly gave his wife $168 million when they ended their 18-year marriage. Material girl Madonna settled $92 million on ex Guy Ritchie after eight years of marriage.
“We don’t see numbers like that in Missouri, even in divorces involving the wealthy,” says Margo Green of Green, Cordonnier & House, a family law practice. “This is an exceptionally conservative state when it comes to alimony, or maintenance, to use the legal term. It’s difficult to get more than $5,000 a month in St. Louis courts, even if the spouse is bringing in $1 million a year. Income doesn’t seem to affect the judge’s ruling here, the way it does in California, New York or even Illinois. And palimony, maintenance paid to domestic partners who split up, isn’t recognized by Missouri courts at all.”
That doesn’t mean palimony is illegal here, Green adds. “Only seven states have explicitly rejected palimony, and Missouri isn’t one of them,” she says. “But everyone knows that judges here simply don’t acknowledge it. In fact, even if domestic partners eventually marry, the courts here don’t recognize the total amount of years they’ve spent together when it comes to awarding maintenance.” Green hopes to play a role in changing that. “I’m currently handling a case in which my argument will be, if you lived with someone for 15 years and were married for only five of them, it’s unfair to disregard those 10 years when the couple divorces.”
Susan Hais of Hais, Hais, Goldberger & Coyne says there is a remedy in general contract law that lets domestic partners divide property. “They can deal with any property they may have acquired jointly by filing a partition suit,” she explains. “The judge will attempt to divide the property equitably.”
Hais agrees that Missouri is conservative when it comes to awarding maintenance. “It’s harder to get than it used to be, even in a long-term marriage with a partner who’s a high-income earner,” she says. “Societal attitudes have really shifted. The perception is that economic opportunities for women have changed dramatically. Women now have a history of success in the workplace. Theoretically, anyone can now go out, get a job and become self-sufficient.”
Many factors influence the amount of maintenance. “Things taken into consideration include the length of the marriage and standard of living set during the marriage; the age, health, obligations, assets and relative income of the parties; and their education, job histories and future financial prospects,” Hais says. What if your spouse is caught in the hot-tub with the nanny? “Conduct should be a relevant factor, even though Missouri is a modified no-fault state,” she says. (Missouri’s modified no-fault divorce law holds that if one spouse objects to the divorce, a court must hold a hearing and make a finding.) “But some judges don’t take it into consideration, which I think is outrageous. It’s still part of the statute, so how can you ignore it? If your behavior causes your marriage to fail, it definitely should be taken into consideration. But it’s up to the discretion of each judge—and to do the best possible job for your client, you have to understand the judge’s attitude toward such matters and understand the process.”
Duration of maintenance is also an issue. “A lot of people don’t realize that a spouse can get maintenance indefinitely,” says Jeff Schechter of The Schechter Law Firm. “If a couple settles outside of court, you can enter an order for non-modifiable maintenance for a set term of years. If your case is tried by a judge, you’ll almost always get modifiable maintenance, which means you can change the amount you’re receiving or paying if you can prove a substantial change in financial circumstances. But either way, a judge isn’t allowed to end maintenance. Unless the couple agrees otherwise, it ends only when the recipient marries again or when either partner dies.”
Alimony, along with child custody, is considered one of the greatest sources of litigation in family law cases, and 80 percent of divorce cases involve a request for modification of maintenance.
Sep 24, 2009 | The Faces of St. Louis Law - Team Approach
Tony DiMartino | Ladue News | September 24, 2009
At a time when law firms nationwide are laying off staff, Hais, Hais, Goldberger & Coyne recently took on a new partner and two associates. “We even remodeled our offices to create more room for everyone, it’s like a vote of confidence in the future,” says founder Susan Hais. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Our business hasn’t been impacted by the recession at all, we’re more solid than ever.”
Sam Hais, her husband and law partner, attributes the firm’s enduring success to the skill, commitment and experience of the people who work there. “We want the best possible results for our clients, and you can’t do that without top-notch staff,” he says. “Our clients have an entire team behind them, and they benefit from the unique expertise of each member of that team. We’re a real law firm, not just a collection of practitioners sharing the same office space. We brainstorm with each other and bring our combined resources to our clients.”
Those resources are considerable. Partner Elliott Goldberger, Sam explains, has practiced law for 25 years and written extensively on child custody issues. Associate Robert Dennis has an MBA and other advanced degrees; his wife, Amy, also an associate, has a background in real estate, tax, and general litigation. “Susan has been practicing law since 1974, and I was a judge for 26 years,” Sam says. “Our paralegals are the gold standard, they’ve been practicing at least 25 years. Together, we bring a variety of experiences and contacts to the table.”
The recent hires are no exception. “Kieran Coyne, our new partner, is a former sole practitioner who’s done a lot of guardian ad litem work for the court,” Sam says. “His background gives him not only legal expertise, but a deep sensitivity to custody issues. That’s important, because men today want as much time as possible with their kids, and want to be considered equally as important as the moms.”
Associate Kevin Greene started out as a paralegal with the Haises. “He’s so dedicated, he went to law school at Saint Louis University at night,” Sam says. “Our other new associate, Joseph Lambson, a Washington University grad, is brilliant and incisive but also has a wonderful way with people.”
Susan Hais says that, in addition to a highly skilled staff, the firm’s focus on family law has been essential to its success. “Some firms try to be all things to all people and take a multipurpose approach,” she says. “But I don’t think a single firm can do everything equally well. General practices aren’t equipped to handle the emotional needs of divorcing clients and their children. We’ve created a firm where people feel secure during stressful times. They know we’ll work hard to forge agreements that meet their specific needs.”
The Haises say that the overwhelming majority of their business is referred by satisfied clients and members of the legal community. “That’s how you develop business, not just through websites or organizations, but by working 24/7 and earning a great reputation,” Susan says.
Aug 27, 2009 | Legal Corner: Legal Costs - Ladue News
Tony DiMartino | Ladue News | August 27, 2009
The high price of justice is putting a squeeze on clients and attorneys alike these days. On the client side, individuals are postponing legal work and businesses are taking more legal work in-house. Consequently, a number of firms nationwide aren’t hiring as many associates as they used to; others have been forced to lay off employees. LN asked several top St. Louis attorneys what clients can do to tame the beast of billable hours.
SAM HAIS OF HAIS, HAIS, GOLDBERGER & COYNE
- Look for experienced representation. “To save time and avoid costly mistakes, hire a lawyer who has a reputation for results and a solid crew of associates and paralegals,” Hais notes.
- Learn the basics of divorce law. “Knowing the basic procedures and the difference between ‘petitioner’ and ‘respondent,’ for example, can save your lawyer from time-consuming explanations,” he says. “You can also minimize costs by using e-mail instead of the telephone when you contact your legal team. Phone conversations always take longer.”
- Revenge may be sweet, but it’ll cost you. “Don’t go for the kill,” Hais says. “It leads to long, drawn-out, expensive legal battles that benefit no one. Be firm about what you want, but also be flexible and fair-minded.”
- Don’t second-guess your law firm. “It complicates issues and drives up costs,” Hais says. “If you’ve hired a reputable firm, your lawyer is on your side, so why start taking advice from your Aunt Tilly?” And speaking of advice, “never take legal advice from your soon-to-be ex,” he says. “Believe me, his or her interests don’t coincide with yours.”
Jul 30, 2009 | Driven to Succeed - Ladue News
Shannon Parker | Ladue News | July 30, 2013
Some women might take offense if their husband compared them to a pit bull, but not Susan Hais. Her husband and law partner of more than three decades uses the term lovingly to explain her success in what was once only a man’s world. Founder of the law firm Hais, Hais, Goldberger and Coyne, Susan Hais has earned a reputation for being a successful divorce lawyer who pulls out all the stops.
“Clients love her,” Sam says. “She thinks like Churchill: Never, never, never, never give up.” Susan confirms that. “I can’t stand unfairness,” she states. So when did all this purposefulness start? In part, during her entry into the law profession in 1974, at a time when female attorneys were not nearly as commonplace as they are today. “I had to be better,” she says, “more prepared. I wanted success more, more than anything.” Witnessing gender discrimination firsthand, combined with growing up in an achievement-driven household, laid the groundwork for the powerhouse her law firm would become.
“We have a passion for justice and, some have said, a reputation for results,” says Sam, who joined his wife’s practice after years as a judge. The firm’s reputation has attracted both male and female clients, perhaps for different reasons, Sam ventures. Women may prefer female attorneys when relating the personal issues surrounding divorce, and men might believe that female attorneys have an edge with judges when it comes to family law cases.
Susan agrees. “Sometimes women are embarrassed to talk about the issues,” she says, referring to infidelity, financial improprieties and other highly personal topics. And, she notes, women undergoing a divorce can be disillusioned with men, in general. “A lot of females are very angry at their spouses,” she says. On the flip side, men may believe that a powerful female attorney is more likely to intimidate a stay-at-home spouse.
Both Haises advocate a ‘proactive approach’ to family law. As Susan puts it, “A significant number of people come to us and want to preserve their marriage, but they have early misgivings.” She urges all spouses to be vigilant in participating in family finances. All parties to a divorce case should understand how much money comes in, goes out and if/how funds are invested. “Don’t wait until you’re bleeding to go to the doctor,” adds Sam. Although some people may find such a conversation off-putting, Susan suggests that they remember, “It’s not just one person, it’s both your financial lives.”
May 11, 2009 | Most High-Profile Divorce Attorney: Susan Hais of Hais, Hais and Goldberger
When the orange blossoms have wilted and ‘I do’ has turned into ‘I don’t anymore,’ it’s time for a smart divorce attorney. Susan Hais, founder of Hais, Hais & Goldberger, is just that. The solo practice she started 30 years ago has grown into a seven-attorney firm that focuses on family law. Hais is known to fight hard for her clients, but she also cares about what happens to them after that final decree is signed. “We do everything we can to minimize the devastating effects of divorce, so that our clients remember us not only as their advocate and protector, but as a facilitator of their future well-being,” she says.
2. Margo Green of Green, Cordonnier & House LLP
3. Joyce Capshaw of Carmody McDonald
4. The Schechter Law Firm
5. Cordell & Cordell
Feb 12, 2009 | Hands-On Legal Service - Ladue News
Toni DiMartino | Ladue News | February 12, 2009
“And they lived happily ever after” might have been true back in the 1940s, when five out of six married couples stayed together til death did them part. But as times change, so do statistics. These days, the fairy tale often turns into a horror story, and half of all marriages end in divorce.
Social trends may shift, but the needs of families in crisis remain constant. “People who are going through a painful divorce need an attorney who is thoroughly familiar with every nuance of family law and the family court system,” says attorney Susan Hais. That’s why her firm, Hais, Hais & Goldberger, P.C. focuses solely on family law, an area that deals with divorce, child custody and other complex, emotionally charged issues.
The firm, now entering its 30th year, started out as a solo practice, with just Susan and a paralegal. “But thanks to Susan’s reputation as a caring, tenacious advocate, the practice grew rapidly,” says Sam Hais, Susan’s husband and business partner. “We now have seven attorneys, and we plan on adding one or two more.”
“Actually, a lot of the firm’s growth was spurred by Sam,” Susan Hais says. “When he joined in 2002 after 25 years as a family court judge, clients were drawn to his unique expertise. We were able to expand to accommodate more complex cases.”
Divorce is an increasingly complicated matter, involving the evaluation of financial matters and tax issues, disposition of marital property and debt, and knowledge of pension and bankruptcy laws, the Haises note. Child custody problems often require psychological or psychiatric evaluation and the use of vocational experts to resolve questions of maintenance and support.
But the emotional complexities can be every bit as thorny as the technical ones. “In our opinion, general practice firms may not be equipped to handle these needs,” Sam Hais says. “Our clients develop strong relationships with us because we’re helping them during a difficult time. They feel protected and reassured. They know we’re going to listen to them and fight for them.”
He has been known to talk clients out of filing for divorce. “It happens once in awhile, if it’s the appropriate thing to do,” he says, “and our clients are grateful for it.”
Because decisions made during a divorce affect the rest of a client’s life, and the lives of their children, too—it’s important to choose an attorney carefully, the Haises say. “Get a referral from a friend who has been through a divorce, or a trusted family adviser, like a clergyman,” Susan Hais advises. “Interview more than one attorney, if need be, until you feel a connection. Does he or she understand you, answer your questions, return your calls?” And make sure the firm has enough staff to take care of you. “We have a paralegal for each attorney,” she adds.
The Haises are equally careful when choosing the attorneys who work for them. “Skill and talent are important, of course, but equally important is a strong desire to help people,” Sam Hais says. “This is a tough area of practice, requiring a tremendous amount of work and sensitivity. We are fortunate to have so many extremely talented people with us, including Elliott Goldberger, Robert and Amy Dennis, and our latest hire, Kevin Greene. And Joseph Lambson, who will join us in June, is so impressive that we hired him before he got out of law school!”
Jul 31, 2008 | A Strong Start - Ladue News
Meredith Boggess | Ladue News | July 31, 2008
When attorney Susan Hais, founder of Hais, Hais, Kallen & Goldberger P.C., graduated from Washington University as an undergraduate in 1970, her sights were set on a Ph.D. in English and a career as a college professor. But soon after starting a master’s program in the subject at Saint Louis University, Hais discovered a passion for law that has resulted in a long career and a reputation as one of the area’s most successful domestic law attorneys.
“As a student of English, my main interest was in Charles Dickens, a great social critic,” says Hais. Did the famed English novelist inspire Hais’ own social inclinations? Perhaps, she says. “I was thrilled with my literature classes, but realized I was more passionate about law and how I could use it to help others, so I decided to enter law school.” At a time when women had just begun to make inroads in male-dominated fields like law, it wasn’t a common path. “I remember very clearly the day I went to visit Richard Childress, then dean of SLU’s law school. He was delighted with my decision and remained supportive of me and the other women in my class throughout our studies,” she says.
To say Hais was outnumbered by male peers during her years in law school would be a gross understatement. “I was in classes of 200 students, and maybe six or seven of them were women. But I never felt at a disadvantage. In fact, I felt the opposite, I felt accepted and supported by my classmates and professors, many of whom I remain friends with today. Law school was a wonderful experience,” says Hais.
Looking for a job was another matter. “I wanted to be a criminal lawyer, and when I graduated, I visited criminal law firms in the area looking for a job,” she recalls. “I almost always got interviews, but mostly because the partners were astounded a woman was even applying for the job and curious to meet me. I heard it all. I was often told it was too ‘rough’ a field for a woman. One lawyer said, ‘If I were going to hire a woman, I would hire you. But I’m never going to hire a woman.’ You couldn’t say that sort of thing today. But I was never discouraged. If anything, I felt good about being on the cutting edge of something. I found it all very exciting.”
Hais figured if she couldn’t find a job, she’d just start her own firm, which she did years later. “I eventually landed at a small firm that had a criminal lawyer and one who did civil work, including personal injury and domestic work,” she says. It was while working there that she discovered her passion for domestic law, and she eventually quit and decided to open her own practice.
Hais’ gender quickly became an asset at that point in her career. “In family law, people wanted to hire females. Some clients were professional women who loved the idea of having a woman representing them,” she says. Her many male clients were also happy to have a woman lawyer, if for different reasons. “My male clients felt like I had an edge in court, and they were right to a certain extent. When dealing with the issues of children, women, marriage and relationships, they felt more comfortable pouring their hearts out to me than to men,” she says.
Juggling her own family was hectic at times, but Hais managed with the same determination she applied to her studies and career. “Having my two children was the best decision I ever made. I was pregnant with my first when I opened my practice. When the time came for the baby to arrive, I continued working as I was rushed to the hospital to deliver, even dictating from the gurney,” she recalls. As her children grew, Hais says that support from her husband, Sam, formerly a judge and now a partner in her firm, was invaluable. “We were a team. I’d get up around 5 a.m. and work for awhile before getting the kids up and off to school. Often, my husband would pick them up in the afternoon, taking a recess from court until the sitter arrived,” she says. “You manage by working around the kids’ schedules. If it’s something you want in your life, you make it happen.”
Hais’ practice quickly became busy, and soon she hired associates and paralegals. Today, Hais, Hais, Kallen & Goldberger has six lawyers, six paralegals and other support staff. But she says the firm has done all the growing it’s going to do. “Firms practicing domestic law shouldn’t get too big, in my opinion. To practice this area of law effectively, you can’t be passing cases on from lawyer to lawyer to lawyer and having people tell their stories to seven different lawyers. These are people’s lives you’re dealing with, and it’s too personal for a large law firm to handle.”
Jul 02, 2008 | A Day in the Life of a Lawyer: Facing Complex Issues
Trish Muyco-Tobin | Ladue News | July 2, 2008
When attorney Susan Hais graduated from law school, she was among only seven women in a class of 220. Clearly, these days the numbers are more balanced. But it was a different world back then, according to the founder of Hais, Hais, Kallen & Goldberger, who started practicing law in 1974.
“It’s become more sophisticated, you need to have a wide array of knowledge of various legal subjects,” she says. Her firm concentrates its practice in the area of family law. “Just like the medical profession, there are reasons for specializing, no one can be a master of all aspects of the law,” she says. “The practice of law has become so complex, people who are looking for divorce lawyers need to find a firm that specializes in family law.”
Hais says issues such as dual working spouses and child care and custody have become more complicated and that they’ve changed the way divorce is handled in the courts. She says throwing financial matters into the mix makes litigation even more involved. “Tax laws have changed: If you get property from someone, you’ll have to figure out the tax consequences and deductions and maintenance. Pension and bankruptcy laws are also different.” In addition, Hais says modern divorce lawyers have to understand issues like relocation. “We represent CEOs who move around, so one of the big questions is how do you adapt parenting plans for people who travel?”
Specializing in family law is not something an attorney can pick up casually, says Hais. “That’s why it’s the only thing we do. The families we handle have corporations, pensions, trusts and assets that are complicated,” she says. “Each case is very specific, and our firm has attorneys who are well-informed in the areas of taxes and business. It’s also important to know and have access to experts such as therapists, psychologists, counselors and social workers.”
While the law has changed over the years to make divorce litigation more gender-neutral and focused on the well-being of children, Hais points out there are areas still in need of improvement. “Years ago, they changed the system to allow for only one year to finish a divorce case,” she explains. “But you can’t just demand certain cases be finished within a certain amount of time. Each case is different and needs some flexibility.” She’d also like to see more family law practitioners appointed to the bench. “Many judges don’t choose to be in family court, but they end up there. That creates an attitude of impatience,” she says, but is quick to add that many judges are completely comfortable in family court. “Patience is required in family court cases, and we have some very emotionally generous judges, they’ll listen and take the time to do what’s right.”
Divorce is one of life’s most emotional and stressful passages, and it’s important to find the right attorney, says Hais. “Ask your good friends about their experiences with their attorneys, that will tell it all,” she advises.
May 08, 2008 | Care When It Counts - Ladue News
Meredith Boggess | Ladue News | May 8, 2008
In the practice of law, some firms, like transactional attorneys, thrive by becoming ‘mega-firms.’ But in the highly personalized atmosphere of divorce and divorce-related litigation, the goal is to grow big enough to offer a complete range of services, but stay small enough to give clients the personal, confidential service that makes them feel protected.
“What we endeavor to do at all times is to fight hard to achieve the best possible results for our clients, while also positioning them for a stable transition to a solid and happy future, post-divorce,” says attorney Susan Hais, founder of Hais, Hais, Kallen & Goldberger. “Our goal is to do everything in our power to minimize the devastating effects of the dissolution of a marriage, so that our clients will remember us not only as their advocate and protector, but as a facilitator of their future well-being.”
Hais believes that mission has contributed to the firm’s success for nearly three decades. In 1979, she opened what was then a one-attorney, one-secretary office. It has since evolved into one of the area’s most comprehensive, strictly divorce law firms, with six attorneys and seven support staff, plus a wide array of adjunct professionals. “We only do domestic relations law, so we thoroughly understand that area of law,” Hais notes. “Over the years, we have observed how different judges in Family Court have applied the many domestic relations legal doctrines in their own discretionary fashion, and we are able to appropriately advise our clients in these ways in order to provide more predictability to the legal process of divorce.”
A key component of that advantage is Hais’ managing partner and husband of almost 29 years, Sam Hais. “Sam was on the bench as a Family Court judge until 2002, when he came to work here,” she says. As managing partner, her husband is primarily involved with the business aspect of the firm. “He’s good with the clients and staff, and he has the ability to make things run smoother.” But more important, she adds, is his ability to weigh in on the legal issues from a judge’s perspective. “He’s involved in a lot of the cases, a lot of people come to him because of his experience as a judge,” Hais says.
For his part, Sam Hais is focusing on the firm’s next 30 years. “We want to continue to provide the highest quality, most cost-effective legal services to clients,” he says. “Having grown over the years to its present mid-range size, our firm remains small enough to keep its services personalized and retain its ‘boutique’ character.” He adds that the firm’s partners, associates and legal assistants work together in a collaborative effort to carefully shepherd clients through the pitfalls of divorce. Partners include Craig Kallen and Elliot Goldberger and associates Amy and Robert Dennis, the other husband-and-wife duo.
Feb 01, 2006 | Happily Ever After - St. Louis Magazine
Jeannette Batz Cooperman | St. Louis Magazine | February 2006
There aren’t many fairy tales left in modern marriage. It’s too hard to figure out the plot. And casting’s a nightmare—who’s the prince, and who’s the princess? We can’t even manage a fable; nobody can agree on the moral of the story.
Martin and Mae Duggan say the man should lead and the woman should be his helpmeet. Andy Trivers says his marriage works because his wife, Kellie, “has a lot of male in her and I actually have a lot of female, and that makes us close.” Lawyers Sam and Susan Hais live peacefully, saving argument for the courtroom; archaeologists Michael and Deborah Cosmopoulos push each other into debate just for the fun of it.
Howard and Vickie Denson pack their life with shared passions— business, travel, church, art and jazz—and the Triverses can’t even remember to make dinner reservations. Terry Crow and Thomas Peters compartmentalize for efficiency, Terry practicing law while Tom stays home with their small children; the Haises shared child care 50-50, and chores are done by whoever is available.
Yet all six pairs are widely known to be “happily married,” the kind of couple you enjoy being around because there’s no covert sniping, no weary put-upon sighs, just ease and a quiet, continuing delight in each other’s company. The rest of us warm ourselves in their presence, wondering how—in an era without roles and rules, let alone magic spells and ivory towers—they do it.
Sam Hais was 31, a state-court judge. Susan Steinberg was 30, a lawyer arguing a case in his courtroom, and she knocked him off his feet. He asked her out in November, proposed in January.
Easygoing and entirely accepting, he was unlike any man Susan had ever known—and, at first, it threw her.
“You were used to men who were controlling,” Sam reminds his wife, “and you expected me to say, ‘Now we are going to do this.’ But I grew up with an older sister who didn’t suffer the foolishness of little kids, and I learned quickly to develop a little flexibility when it came to the female personality.”
Susan learned quickly to be glad of it.
“I didn’t want to stay at home; I wanted to be a lawyer—work when I needed to work and study when I needed to study,” she says. “Sam was always kindly, not spoiled. His parents lived in town; I remember saying, ‘Oh, do they fix you dinner and do your laundry?’ And he said, ‘Oh, no. I kind of take care of them.’ They were Old World, from Romania, and Sam had the kind of courtesy you don’t see often.”
The Haises married in 1979, and their first daughter was born 11 months later. “There she was,” Susan recalls, “and she was a handful!”
“Yeah, she was great,” Sam says. “She’s in Bologna now, studying international relations.” Their second daughter left for college three years ago, but Sam and Susan still eat next to each other because they can’t bear to sit in the girls’ places. “Dinner was a fun time for us,” explains Susan. “At the beginning, they used to wait for me to cook—well, that didn’t work so well, because I was always late. I remember Sam’s first experiments with cayenne pepper—the kids looked at me like, ‘What did Daddy do?’ and I just shrugged back.
“He was always the first one in the carpool pickup line,” she adds. “He would take a break from court, pick the kids up and stop for chocolate-chip cookies—I’d wonder why they weren’t hungry at dinner.”
Sam says he felt a little squeamish at first, telling people why he’d scheduled a break in court around 3—“but the world caught up. Soon lawyers were telling me they had to pick up their kids, too.”
“He took them to all their sports practices,” Susan adds.
“That was the greatest blessing,” he says. “Field hockey was 25 miles away from home in rush-hour traffic, so we had lots of time to talk. But Susan was there for the kids, too. I’ve never met anyone who has her energy. She wouldn’t even start the work she’d brought home until the kids were asleep, and then she’d work until midnight or 2 a.m. and get up at 5:20 a.m. to run.”
Both raised Jewish, the Haises share the same values and politics. Their differences lie in temperament: Sam’s the contemplative one, Susan decisive and energetic. “He moves at his own pace,” she says with a smile. “He has this really wonderful attitude: It’ll all work out; nothing is that important.” She hesitates then grins. “The only thing I can think of that’s irritating about him is something he has no control over—his snoring.”
“You’re going to tell the world I snore?” His amusement is gentle—these two don’t even tease rough. “Civility,” Sam says a moment later, “is a habit just like anything else.”
Of course, the Haises haven’t had much to fight about—no hovering in-laws or money worries, no illnesses or crises. They’re grateful rather than smug—in fact, they make a practice of it, because they have spent their professional lives listening to painful stories of divorce. “The reasons you hear about are not really the causes,” Sam remarks. “Infidelity, drinking, gambling—these are the effects.”
“A lot of people have problems with control,” Susan interjects.
“And that is driven by fear,” Sam continues. “People are afraid of losing their grip; they’re afraid of being swept along in the tide. They want to be able to call the shots. It presents sometimes as rudeness—they push their way through things. You have to trust the other person to make his or her interests subordinate to yours. And if you both do that, it works out beautifully.”