Angela M Scafuri has emerged as one of the more effective - and certainly most grounded - matrimonial lawyers in Northern New Jersey today. A partner at 160-lawyer BresslerAmeryRoss and based in the firm's Florham Park headquarters, Scafuri - poised, mild-mannered, with a unique litigation background in the federal courts - is close to the antithesis of the flamboyant divorce lawyer. She stands out for a buttoned-up professionalism, peers say, a common-sense advisor who deftly and sensitively handles the histrionics common in divorce cases. The 41-year-old Brooklyn native - she grew up in Staten Island and New Jersey - chose the specialty after her own experiences convinced her she'd be good at it - and by all accounts, she has been. "My own divorce really was a factor in what I do today," she says. Moreover, with a young daughter she has skillfully juggled professional and personal demands, becoming a good example of the successful woman partner in ultra-competitive Big Law. With no siblings and doting parents, the young Scafuri lived on Staten Island, part of the "typical close Italian-American family surrounded by cousins on the same block." When her parents bought a one-acre tract in Marlboro in Monmouth County, the 11-year-old Scafuri felt uprooted, "a tough age to suddenly re-locate" - but in the process negotiated with her parents to have her first pet - her dog Pepper, a West-Highland Terrier - "It was my first contract negotiation, with my responsibilities spelled out on paper." Not surprisingly she was a straight-A student at St. John Vianney High School in nearby Holmdel. She went on to Colgate University in upstate New York, a world away ("My insistence, my parents weren't thrilled by my going so far"). But she stayed and did well, majoring in English Literature and Spanish. After graduating she was hired as a receptionist at a Monmouth County law firm focusing on workers' compensation, whose principals spotted her potential; within months she was a legal assistant, proofreading and editing. "I'd long been thinking about law school, but that experience reinforced it for me." She chose Seton Hall Law, well aware that "it's the best law school in the state - and the best track to a New Jersey firm." With her strength in languages, she had an early concentration in international commercial law, but realized early it was not a great fit for most of her early opportunities: During law school she had internships with an Essex County Criminal Part judge, as well as working on local and state court matters as a summer associate. Ultimately she joined the Bridgewater-based firm of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, where she was immersed early in document-heavy transactional work. "In many ways it was a good, foundational start to a legal career, and the firm was very good to me, but after a year of red-lining agreements for senior partners, I knew I had to try something else." By 2003 she focused on insurance litigation, and joined the Bressler firm, which had a thriving national insurance practice. Within a few years Scafuri was crisscrossing the country appearing in federal courts on behalf of insurance companies in complex litigation, particularly bad-faith claims and fraud cases. ("Texas, Florida, California, Chicago, I was everywhere.") Federal courts, compared with lower courts, "are a formal, very professional venue in which participants are always well prepared." The always-organized and disciplined Scafuri thrived in that environment; "I loved litigation and I was effective at it." She was named a partner in 2010. But two years later, facing the challenge of her own divorce, she re-considered her career focus. Her divorce "was a life-changing event for me, and I saw first-hand how that area of the law could make even the most well-read and prepared litigant feel unprepared and helpless." After that experience "I knew I could offer something constructive to it. It made me change my focus." The Bressler firm, with a nascent family-law department, encouraged the move, and Scafuri has not looked back. In less than three years she has established herself as one of the firm's leading divorce litigators and mediators, well known now in Northern and Central New Jersey. She is a court-appointed mediator as well as one of the few trained mediators in New Jersey authorized to mediate cases involving a domestic violence FRO, further raising her profile. Today she credits much of her rise to mentors and professional influences, including Bressler partners Cynthia J. Borrelli and Diana C. Manning, who helped young women lawyers navigate their way through the law's cultural thicket. Scafuri has become something of a mentor in her own right: "Young women lawyers need to know they can have a successful career and family - but the way you get there may surprise you; it may not be according to your master plan." Away from the office she enjoys cooking for her family and friends, as well as growing her own vegetables. "My daughter is my sous-chef. She loves to stand on a chair next to me and help me prepare a meal."