Riker Danzig's Sandra Fava has emerged as one of North Jersey's most promising and distinctive young divorce lawyers. Her authentic, no-nonsense and assertive nature gives her an effectiveness unusual for an attorney of her age. After spending several years at another major firm, playing a central role in its fast-growing matrimonial practice, she joined Riker Danzig, where she is heading up its established family law practice. Sandra is proud of her early accomplishments and excited about her future with Riker Danzig.
She is justly proud too of her heritage, growing up in a strong Italian family with a deep sense of tradition, industry and self-reliance. Her parents immigrated to the US as adults (her mother hailed from Sicily, her father Calabria). They built small businesses, first a fabric-pattern shop in Manhattan's garment district, and later clothing businesses in Newark. Fava recalls as a 12-year-old helping her father do payroll on the family kitchen table; she was regarded, even then, she says, as "the little blonde with the big mouth." The family lived in East Hanover, a short distance from her current office. "My parents built their lives here - they worked hard and never, ever complained." (They are retired now, close to the Jersey Shore.) In her youth if Sandra misbehaved, she says, her mother wouldn't allow her to watch The People's Court, her favorite show. ("My point of reference for lawyers until I got to law school.") She attended The Academy of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station, where she excelled ("My parents liked that there were no boys"). She was the first in her family to go to college, and planned to attend Boston University. Her family wanted her close to home, though, and she ultimately decided on Rutgers, where she majored in Political Science and French. "I was already thinking about being an international corporate lawyer."
Her early internships with regional law firms quickly impacted that idea. As an intern she was assigned a pro bono matter, which involved serious domestic abuse issues. "Now this is important," she recalls telling herself. She began taking family law classes, and at Seton Hall Law took part in the family law clinic. After her second year of law school she took an internship with The Hon. Stephan C. Hansbury, Presiding Judge of the Family Court. Fava recalls an early episode in Family Court in which a woman testified about bizarre behavior by her husband. By the end of the graphic testimony the shocked young Fava was physically ill, and Judge Hansbury quickly pulled her aside - "Toughen up," he said, "because you're going to hear plenty more crazy stuff if you do this kind of work." She took his advice and, "today I can say I've just about heard it all - and I'm rarely surprised."
Just a year out of law school, Sandra was already focusing on family law, and moved into "first chair" position in trying cases before a court during the early years of her practice. Her talent and drive were what caught Riker Danzig's attention when they looked for new talent to lead their family law practice. Managing Partner Glenn Clark said the Firm was as excited about Sandra's reputation and leadership abilities as her legal skills. "Clearly we were looking for someone with an impressive law practice and outstanding legal skills," he said. "Sandra has that in spades. But we were also looking for the right personality and reputation to both fit in our culture and to lead this practice that has always provided an important service for our private clients."
Fava is aggressive in promoting herself and originating her own cases, an important step for any lawyer building a practice. She speaks at conferences regularly and provides pro bono services to womens' groups. Fava already knows well the state's colorful divorce bar and she Tweets and blogs regularly. Away from the office she enjoys practicing yoga and reading fiction; recent favorites: "The Help" and "The Room." Fava lives in Morris County with her husband Christopher Gerold, a securities litigation attorney, and their two dogs.