THE

Managing
Partners
podcast

Episode # 150
Interview on 12.22.2021

Hosted By
Erik J. Olson

Featuring Attorney

Daniel Dannenbaum



Managing Partner of
Dannenbaum Law Firm

About Daniel Dannenbaum

Daniel Dannenbaum is the Managing Partner at Dannenbaum Law Firm in Arlington, Virginia.

Daniel's dedication and skill are the reasons why the Washingtonian magazine has named him as a top family law attorney in the area. His track record of success is also the reason why he was selected for inclusion in 2007 Super Lawyers and why he is the BV Distinguished peer review-rated* through Martindale-Hubbell, the highest available rating.

Learn from his expertise and what trends are helping grow his firm on this episode of The Managing Partners Podcast!

Watch the Episode

Episode Transcript

Erik J. Olson:
Hey everybody. I am Erik J. Olson, your host for this live episode of The Managing Partners Podcast, where we interview America’s top managing partners to find out how they’re running their firms, how they’re growing their firms, and what they’re doing to keep their case pipeline full. And today I have with me Daniel Dannenbaum. Hey Daniel, how are you doing?

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Hi. Good. Thank you.

Erik J. Olson:
Well, thanks for making the time. I appreciate it. Let me tell the audience a little bit about you. For more than 25 years people throughout Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. have relied on Dan to work hard on their behalf and provide them effective representation in their family law matters, including divorce, separation agreements, and child custody issues, and to provide effective mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. A graduate of Harvard University, George Washington Law School in the top 5% of his graduating class, Dan has been practicing law for 31 years. That is incredibly impressive. Welcome to the show, Dan.

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Thank you, Erik. Good to be here.

Erik J. Olson:
Well, again, appreciate you making the time. Can you tell the audience a little bit more about you and your firm?

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Sure. I’m from Philadelphia originally, and moved down after attending Harvard University to the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to go to law school at George Washington, and I stayed. I’ve been here as a lawyer now for 31 years. I’m practicing in the DC Northern Virginia area. I originally was in DC, Washington, D.C. I had my offices, and then I moved about 12, 13 years ago out to Northern Virginia. I’m currently in Arlington, Virginia, right at the courthouse, above the Courthouse Metro, block from the courthouse, which I like very much, very convenient. And my clients seem to like the fact that I’m very close to a courthouse. I think that my area of practice is family law. I do every aspect of family law that there is from divorce cases primarily, but post divorce issues that come up, child custody, child support, prenuptial agreements, postnuptial agreements. I do a little bit of mediations too as well. So just all areas of the family law ambit that we have in our practice.

Erik J. Olson:
That’s great. Northern Virginia is my old stomping grounds, that’s where I grew up. I’m now in Virginia Beach, but I know the area well. So when it comes to family law, I’ve heard from different managing partners that different results based on the pandemic. Some have said it slowed down for them, some have said that businesses picked up. It sounds like maybe right now it’s actually picking up as we’re exiting the pandemic. What have you seen as a result of the pandemic as far as basically business and demand for your services?

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Yeah, I’ve seen an increase in demand since the pandemic started really. I think the fact that people were confined to small quarters in a home may have exacerbated some of the underlying tensions in family links and marriages. So I’ve seen a lot of divorce cases come out of the pandemic, more so than in previous years. And the other side of the coin is that the courts have been closed down for a while and running very slowly. So we have a lot of cases that we’ve filed in courts that are not being heard very quickly. So there’s a backlog in the cases. So there’s very much of a pipeline now of cases that should have been heard during the pandemic and now are starting to be heard in court. And then there are cases that were filed during the pandemic that have yet to be heard. So it looks like the future is going to be a lot of litigation as we work ourselves through that pandemic pipeline that kind of backed up in courts.

Erik J. Olson:
Are you seeing some trends in your practice area in regards to things like increase or decrease in mediation, the alternative dispute resolutions, things like that?

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Yes. And that’s been a trend that’s been going on really since I started practicing law in the family law area in the last 26, 30 years. Mediation back then was really not something that you immediately looked at doing. And now I would say in almost half the cases I have, that mediation is something that, first of all, ethically we’re required to mention and explain mediation in our first meetings with clients. And I do so very much so, and I encourage it. It often is a better way and less expensive manner to resolve matters, and less time consuming, especially now that we have to a long time to get into court. Even more so mediation is really the better way to approach these cases, particularly when custody’s involved. There are also co-parent counselors that we recommend that people go see and try to work out their differences through a professional child psychologist who deals with high conflict custody matters.

Daniel Dannenbaum:
So these are all areas that really have taken much to the forefront of litigation. Because litigation has become… Litigation being going to court to resolve the issues that you have as opposed to going to a mediator or a judge mediator to resolve your issues. Much less expensive and much less time consuming. Speaking of judge mediators, that seems to be the latest trend as well, that retired judges have now left the bench and gone on to be mediators. And they often bring with… I call it Moses coming down from the mountain with his tablets and telling you what to do in your case. They have a lot of background, obviously, and a lot of informateur behind what they say because they were judges, and they continue to be judges. They sit occasionally on the bench.

Daniel Dannenbaum:
So they’re very helpful in terms of getting a case mediated, settled at a less expensive and less time consuming, less stressful manner, more amicable, and going forward a better way to co-parent than being in court and having all the dirty laundry come out and things said that you can never put back in your mouth. Yet mediation is not always successful. And in those cases, the only other alternative we have is to go to court and put on our case and have a judge decide these issues. And that’s, I’d say, 50% of the cases are where a judge actually has to decide some or all of the issues.

Erik J. Olson:
Something interesting to me, something you just said and I’d never picked up on it before, but you go to court, it’s public record, you do mediation, it’s not public record, is that correct?

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Yes, that’s correct for the most part. So if you’re in court, there’s a transcript of everything you say, and that transcript could be put on the internet, it could be spread all over the world unless the file happens to be sealed by the court, which is very unusual actually. If you’re in mediation, everything said in mediation stays in mediation. And that’s the law of Virginia. We can’t raise anything that’s said in mediation in a courtroom for example. And that allows for the candor to occur during mediation so that we can actually make progress. And we don’t feel like we need to hold back because something may be said against us. So yeah, that’s very much true that mediation is a nicer setting and that it’s more confidential.

Erik J. Olson:
I would think that would be preferred by those who want to keep their dirty laundry private. But I would also imagine that those that have an axe to grind don’t want that privacy, they want to get it all out in the open.

Daniel Dannenbaum:
That’s very much true. I mean, people do want their day in court, and that’s more of an emotional thing. But if they do have a lot of anger and they want to express that, it’s certainly a better forum for them to be in a courtroom than in just a mediation office in somebody’s law office to express that kind of emotions that are very deeply held in these cases. And rightly so in many cases, but you’re right. Having your day in court is very important to a lot of clients.

Erik J. Olson:
Yeah. I was speaking with a managing partner of a family law practice earlier today. And one of the things that he relayed to me was that it’s a difficult practice area. There’s a lot of emotions. As a human being that’s empathetic, it can kind of get to you after a while. You’ve been practicing for 31 years, I’m guessing that’s happened to you probably on multiple occasions. How do you kind of deal with the struggles of your clients?

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Well, you really take it on very personally, too. I mean, I’ve been divorced twice. I’ve gone through it. And I think that lends me some empathy with what my clients are going through. I try to be empathetic. I try to listen very closely to what they’re saying and try to help them. Obviously I’m not a counselor, but I do recommend that oftentimes my clients do go to counseling to help the them through this very stressful event and traumatic event in their lives. But I try to stick to keeping it legal, our conversation, so that I tell them everything they need to know. I answer all their concerns.

Daniel Dannenbaum:
I ask them, what are the three things that keep you up at night? And I want to address those so that I can try to maybe make you feel better, but I certainly will tell you the truth. I’m not going to put this with rose-colored glasses on, I’m going to tell you the good, bad and the ugly. But my clients tend to leave that, especially that first meeting, just with a lot of knowledge that they didn’t have coming in. And they’re very appreciative, and they feel much better going out than they did coming into the office.

Erik J. Olson:
I know the feeling, not from a family law perspective, but personally talking to my business lawyer when I’ve had a complicated issue. And I’ll go in, I’ll speak to them, and I come out feeling like everything’s going to be okay. It’s a nice feeling as a client to feel that way. Speaking of clients, being in practice again for 31 years, which by the way is amazing. Congratulations.

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Thank you.

Erik J. Olson:
I’m guessing a lot of your clientele comes from referrals and your reputation and being in the community. What are some other ways that you go about getting the attention of potential clients?

Daniel Dannenbaum:
All right. And let me just say one thing, I’ve been a family law lawyer for 29 years. I’ve been a practicing lawyer for 31 years. So I just want to make that clear. The ways that I obtain clients are manifold. One is certainly through word of mouth. Having been in this, doing this for 29 years, I’ve had thousands of clients. So I have a lot of referrals from past clients. I’d say that’s my base of clientele coming in. Obviously I have a website and that helps, I think, bring new people in, people who are new to the area. I find a lot of people who are moving here, they go on the website, they read the website and then reach out to me. I tend to be very accessible. I give everybody my cell phone number, tell them to call me anytime, day, night or weekend.

Daniel Dannenbaum:
I like to have real time back and forth with the client. So if they need me at eight o’clock at night or on a Saturday, they can feel free to call me. I think that helps my practice, too. They know that they can always have somebody to talk to if they need immediate help. So that helps. Other ways, I have other attorneys who refer me cases. I actually happen to work in an office where we share space with other attorneys who practice different areas of the law. So there’s a criminal lawyer here who’s been doing this for 43 years. There’s a business law lawyer who’s been practicing for 43 years as well. There’s a guy who does trust in the States, and he’s been doing this for 20 plus years. So we all sort of feed off each other in terms of, if I have a criminal issue that comes about in my case, I can send them over to the criminal lawyer who can handle that. Or if they have a business aspect to their case, I have a business lawyer right here who can handle that aspect of their case.

Daniel Dannenbaum:
And they also will have criminal clients and personal injury clients as well who may have a family law issue or their friends or their family have a family law issue. So they will refer clients over to me. Because we’ve practiced into all these different areas, including as I said personal injury, we’re able to do a lot of cross marketing. So that helps a lot too. Also the place where I’m at is right at the courthouse, so I’m a block away from the Arlington courthouse and about 15 minutes away from the Fairfax Circuit Court. And also the Alexandria Circuit Court, again, it’s a 15-minute drive there. So I think this location and being on top of the Arlington metro, Court House Metro, is also very beneficial to me and to my practice and to obtaining new clients.

Erik J. Olson:
That’s great. What are some things that you’ve done in the past from a marketing perspective that you realize haven’t worked out very well and you stopped doing?

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Well, at one point I was attending sort of seminars with other businessmen where they worked in a variety of businesses. And it was sort of a networking group that met for business meeting for breakfast once a week. And I did that for a while, and I found that that was really not working for me. And it was also taking me away from my business and my clients who needed me during that time. So I tried that for a few weeks, and I just felt that that was really not working. And it was actually a negative. So I stopped doing that obviously.

Erik J. Olson:
Yeah. So I’ve heard this before, kind of a BNI or chamber of commerce. It’s one of those things it’s great to go there, it’s great to be informed and to get to know some of the people, but when it’s a recurring thing with the same group of people, the return of investment can decline over time, right?

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Yes, that’s what I found. But as I said, I learned that pretty early on, first three meetings or so. And I figured, I guess we’re all just showing up and trying to get each other’s business, but it doesn’t really work very well, so.

Erik J. Olson:
If you had to predict the next couple of years for your practice, where do you think you’re going?

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Well, I see growth for sure. Certainly the more clients you have, the more clients you’re going to get in the future. And also with my colleagues too, they see an increase in their business. Although, personal injury has suffered a little bit with fewer people driving and fewer people out in the roads biking and whatnot. But I think in my practice, they say it’s recession proof, and it tends to be, in fact, you sort of see maybe an uptick with people when they feel the stress of financial strain, things tend to break up. There’s an increase in debt and there’s more stress in the marriage. So I often see during periods when there was economic slowdown, I see that the family law practice actually does increase. So being that it’s recession proof, and I seem to have build up a lot of goodwill over the years fortunately through word of mouth, through clients’ referrals, through other lawyer referrals, and through my website, I just see that there will be growth in the next three to five years.

Erik J. Olson:
Good for you. I’m guessing you’ll stay in the same location cause it sounds like the location is a prime location.

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Yes. And the lawyers here have been at this location for over 30 years. So a lot of people out there just simply show up at the door and they say, “I’m looking for a lawyer,” because they know that we’re here, and we’re a block from the courthouse. So they get served with papers, they go to court, and then the next stop is over here to our office, which is just literally down the street. And it’s a two-minute walk to the courthouse in Arlington. So I think there’s goodwill associated with this particular building, so we intend to stay here for a long time.

Erik J. Olson:
That’s pretty interesting. I haven’t heard of a lot of walk-in clients as far as lead sources for law firms. Yeah, but when you’ve been there for so long and it’s well known that there’s a lot of different kinds of lawyers that can help you with a lot of different things there, that’s the place to go. That’s really interesting. [inaudible 00:17:37]

Daniel Dannenbaum:
And I thrive on that too. I’ll tell my clients at the end of representation that, “Consider me to be your legal resource. So if you or any friends of yours have any issues relating to any area of the law, have them call me. And if I can’t help them, I’ll try to get them to the best lawyer I can find for them, and give them some names and describe the type of lawyer they are and their personalities and whatnot.” And I think that’s helpful to clients. They feel as if, well, they have somebody that they can use as a resource.

Erik J. Olson:
That’s great. I’ve said in the past, there’s nothing better than a new client, but if that’s not going to happen, to refer the client to someone that I know.

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Absolutely, to a good lawyer

Erik J. Olson:
To a good lawyer, there you go.

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Yes, yes.

Erik J. Olson:
Well, Dan, I appreciate your time, it’s late in the afternoon for us as we’re recording this. So I will let you go in a second. But if someone would like to reach out and ask you questions or maybe they have a case for you, what is a good way to get in touch with you?

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Well, of course, I answer my cell phone all the time, 24/7. So you can call me at 703-405-4899. You can visit my website, which is dannenbaumlaw. It’s D-A-N-N-E-N-B as in boy, A-U-M as in Mary, L-A-W, dannenbaumlaw.com. And the website has an area where you can actually chat with somebody and send me an email. And I will respond very quickly to those emails and get back to potential client and talk about their case immediately.

Erik J. Olson:
Very nice. Well, Dan, I appreciate your time, thanks so much. All right everybody else, if you would like to check out more episodes like this one, our entire backlog is at arraylaw.com/podcast. We have over 150 interviews organized by practice area and by state. So you can find exactly what you’re looking for. And if you are looking for digital marketing, my firm, Array Digital, focuses exclusively on digital marketing for law firms like yours. We are at arraylaw.com, and we have more information about our services such as website design, SEO, online advertising, and social media. Dan, thanks so much.

Daniel Dannenbaum:
Thank you, Erik.

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