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Sherri Donovan '85 Sees Matrimonial Law as a Way to Help the Underdog

Sherri Donovan’85 decided to become a lawyer when she was 11 years old and read the autobiography of Clarence Darrow. At New York Law School, Ms. Donovan graduated first in her class in all civil litigation courses and was a leader in organizing public interest and community lectures and seminars.

“I could have gone for the corporate positions, but I never did,” she recalled.“I was always interested in public service law and in helping the underdog.”

That passion translated into a practice in matrimonial and family law, which Ms. Donovan views as a type of public interest law. Although Ms. Donovan believes divorce is painful and difficult for men and women, she is especially concerned with the effect of divorce on women and children, because of a number of factors she notes in her new book Hit Him Where it Hurts ((Adams Media, 2007). Those factors include the following:

  • After a divorce or separation, the standard of living for the average woman decreases 30 to 45 percent, while the average man’s standard of living increases ten percent.
  • Nearly 45 percent of children living with a divorced mother live at or near the poverty level.
  • Years after divorce, one-third of ex-spouses still fight over their children.
  • Divorce is most damaging to children when there is chronic conflict between estranged parents.

Ms. Donovan’s book is based on her own professional and personal experience. She established her own firm, Sherri Donovan & Assoc., P.C. in 1988. She has served as the divorce clinic specialist for the Service Fund of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in New York City for more than 16 years. Ms. Donovan lectures at numerous divorce clinics and has appeared as a legal expert on national radio and television programs including Geraldo, CBS News and the Montel Williams Show. She has written numerous articles and has been quoted in Divorce Magazine, Crains, Newsday, the Daily News, and many local newspapers. A child of divorce and a divorcee, Ms. Donovan lives with her daughter in New York City.

While divorce can be a difficult experience, Ms. Donovan enjoys the practice of matrimonial law. “It is most satisfying helping people through crisis. It is an interesting and stimulating practice that involves negotiations and litigation as well as psychological and financial analysis.”

According to Ms. Donovan, the three most common mistakes women make in a divorce are underestimating their spouse and his lawyer; the lasting impact divorce will have on their and their children’s futures, and their own power in determining the outcome of their divorce.

“Women want to be nice,” Ms. Donovan explained, “but in being nice, you often lose fairness. You need something more assertive. Divorce is hard. You have to be prepared.”

Ms. Donovan’s book employs a boxing motif to provide women with advice about divorce. In a series of sections labeled TKO (a boxing term for technical knockout), Ms. Donovan outlines common divorce mistakes to be avoided.Her book covers the full range of divorce concerns, including property division, domestic violence, custody, child support and alimony.

Ms. Donovan fondly remembers many of her professors at New York Law School, particularly David Chang, Arthur Leonard, Michael Perlin, Marjorie Silver, and Lawrence Grosberg.

“The professors at New York Law School inspired me to carry out my ideals and develop my legal skills to the best of my ability, which makes me the attorney I am today,” Ms. Donovan said.