Pamela Schaefer has been practicing family law for more than two decades. Her main focus is on family law, including divorce and custody, probate law, estate planning, and estate litigation, as well as guardianships and occasional adoptions. In addition to that, she handles family issues that revolve around unmarried parents and custody. Earlier in life, Pamela had gone to nursing school and became a registered nurse. She worked as a nurse in maternity and pediatrics for 12 years, but in her mid-20s a new ambition awoke inside of her and she became interested in practicing law. Pamela Schaefer completed her bachelor’s degree in political science and then attended law school at night at the New England School of Law while continuing to work as a nurse during the day.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
I really love seeing people get to a better place in life. When I tell people who don’t work in family law what I do for a living, I often see their faces drop or detect some kind of negative connotation associated with divorce law. But in my job, it’s not like that at all. I get to watch as people start out—oftentimes in a really tough spot—work their way through the divorce process, and then emerge in a much better place once it’s finally done. I love that.
What keeps you motivated?
Working for my clients and seeing how amazing they can be keeps me motivated. Recently, there have been some changes at my office. We’re moving and cleaning things out, and I came across some thank you cards from some current and former clients that just touched my heart. It’s so nice when people are happy with the outcome I helped to facilitate or feel like they were represented well—that somebody was on their side—it feels so meaningful to me. It’s really nice.
Some people have posted online reviews for my office and some of the nice things they say mean so much to me. Often, people don’t take the time to send a card or write a review. I don’t always know how a client feels when all is said and done, so when you do get to see some tangible evidence of gratitude, it makes me feel like my job is even more important. It motivates me.
How do you motivate others?
I think it’s a combination of leading by example and letting people know that even though they may be in a bad moment or a tough spot where they think this is just something they can’t do anymore, or they can’t see that it’s ever going to get better, that it will, and that we will get there together. There are measures we can take to change things in a positive way. As long as I know a client can put in that effort to go through with the process, or take my advice when I give it, we will get them there.
How has your company grown from its early days to now?
These days I’m able to focus more on the type of law I really enjoy, much more so than when my practice was new and I accepted any case that came along. As the years go by, I have more experience and can attract more complicated and extreme cases, which is interesting. It’s also sometimes really sad. But my practice has definitely grown in that sense.
Who has been a role model to you and why?
Family members have been role models for me in all kinds of different ways. Both my parents were pretty hard workers and well-educated people. They were never negative. They always kept plowing away. My siblings, in different ways, have all done that as adults, as well. They don’t give up. I remember my father saying things like, “Can’t is just not a word I want to hear.” That quote and many others like it have always stuck with me.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
It’s always a work in progress, but my work/life balance has gotten better over the years. When my kids were young, I would often balance it out by leaving the office at 5 pm, and then once they were in bed, I would do more work so that I could have time with them beforehand. Now, as they’ve gotten older, I’m a little more skilled in my work, so I can manage things better. Also, I have some of the best support staff that anybody could ask for, and that helps an incredible amount.
What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?
I’ve heard people say: “Wow, that’s amazing, you’re so strong or you’re so confident to open your own office.” Sometimes I think that’s because I just dive into things and I don’t really actually take the time to think through all the possibilities that could go wrong. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but sometimes I say to myself, “Oh, I’m just going to do it,” but there’s also an element of not being too quick to give up on it either and keeping things going. I think that trait extends into every part of my life. When the going gets tough, the tough get going! I like to take action. If something seems difficult, I don’t view it as something that can’t be done, I just look for some other way to make it happen.
What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?
I think some advice I was given when I was getting started that was really helpful was to go on informational interviews and talk to people that went to the same school, because generally speaking, most people are happy to help alumni. It was also useful to ask working professionals: How did you get to where you are today? What do you like about it? What would you do differently? Some of those conversations led to part-time work for me, as well as some connections that I still have to this day that have proven really meaningful and helpful.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Being a parent is huge for me, but so is being an entrepreneur. Beyond those two things, even though it’s been a long time and there are so many other things going on in my life now, I have to say, when I passed the bar, it felt great because it was a success on a level that I’d never attained before.
Where do you see you and your company in 5 years?
I really like where I’m at, right now. But I also foresee growing my practice and having perhaps another lawyer or two on staff. That would give me the ability to pass the reins on to another attorney and to be able to step away at times while continuing to have my business. I do have one associate attorney right now, but I could see us growing a bit more.