Renee Rasky Chernus is one of Marin County's best known and most successful independent divorce lawyers, whose personal and professional style reflect Marin's creative and open-minded culture. With a down-to-earth cheer that hasn't wavered after two decades handling contentious divorce cases, Chernus remains a strong advocate for clients; opponents say she can be a tough adversary - yet they still like her. Today, with expansive offices just off Route 101 in San Rafael, Chernus is very much a fixture of the legal community, as well as the North Bay region; her husband of over 30 years, Roy Chernus, is a judicial officer. Though a Marin resident for more than 3 decades, Renee Chernus is not far removed from her New Jersey roots of the early 70s, when Teaneck High School "celebrated Earth Day and passed on a prom." After her second year at Syracuse University, urged by a cousin, she attended Chico State for a year ("I thought California was the most fantastic place in the world."), but returned to Syracuse for her final year. While in law school in New York ("about a third of the class was women; a lot in those days"), she and Roy Chernus started their life together. "We had to decide - either stay in New York or build a life in California." Without jobs, they landed a sublet in a gritty Berkeley neighborhood; shortly thereafter they found an apartment with a "For Rent" sign in Marin Headlands. "We barely knew what we were getting into," she recalls. Ever resourceful Chernus began calling Marin lawyers - by the time she'd reached the B's in the Yellow Pages she landed a job; she joined a Sausalito-based firm headed by Neil Bloomfield and Clay Greene, which engaged in a range of litigation, including divorce cases.
In 1983, as she launched her own practice, computer-game development was beginning to explode, and she found herself writing contracts and trademark applications for Bay Area entrepreneurs. But as her caseload grew "I hit a crossroads: Either build an IP litigation practice and join a large firm or focus on divorce law as a solo practitioner." With two young sons at home, the decision came fairly easily: By the mid 90s she was a full-time divorce lawyer. "I found that I loved it, and I was good at it. I could assess a client's situation, and arrive at a reasonable and logical outcome, all in a relatively cost-efficient manner." Moreover, Chernus, well known in Marin County, built her family law practice - and reputation - fairly quickly. With the growth of alternate dispute resolution, more than half of her cases are settled in mediation, but Chernus still regards herself as a classic litigator, and she's in court regularly. She was Certified as a Family Lawyer by the State Bar in 1999, and in 2005 became a fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. In recent years she's been named a third-party case manager and discovery referee, a testament to the stature she's earned in the legal community.
Away from the office, Renee Chernus and her husband have enjoyed travel abroad, and even hiked a mountain range in Nepal. She plays the occasional round of golf, and a recent knee replacement only briefly slowed her. (Her husband Roy was named a Superior Court Judge in January 2011.) Renee reflects her personality with the bright, original artwork displayed in her home. Chernus's older brother, Lawrence Rasky, runs a respected PR and strategic planning firm in Boston and is a former spokesman for then-candidate Joseph Biden. Her two sons, Eric and David Chernus, are now grown. Eric and his wife, Elizabeth, both work full-time and attend evening law school.