Susan Hicks is one of the most prominent and accomplished matrimonial attorneys in Virginia today, but that's only half of it. Hers is a remarkable personal story of a woman attorney who ignored early attitudes and stereotypes in the law, and who, with skill and determination, has built a respected family law practice over nearly three decades. A cheerful, polite demeanor conceals a shrewd, industrious approach to her craft. She leads by example at her Fairfax law firm, which includes five associates and one attorney of counsel.
The daughter of an insurance executive, Hicks is a Lynchburg, Va., native who grew up in Yardley, Pa. She was a home economics major at Virginia Tech when she first married. It was her then-husband, himself an attorney, who encouraged her to return college, and later attend law school. With two children under age 5, Hicks thought she could "tuck the kids in and head off to night classes" but it wasn't that simple. Once full-time at Georgetown Law, she considered a future as a litigator. Colleagues chided her: "'Oh, everyone has that fantasy in law school,' they all said." But Hicks, who later clerked at the Fairfax County Circuit Court ("The best job I ever had"), was intent. Judges and other courthouse denizens began referring her cases.
In those early years, Hicks took on all kinds of trial work, unafraid to tackle unfamiliar areas. She and her first law partner, Helen Leiner, represented lower security prisoners in jail grievances ("If the weather was good they'd walk out to prison yard and not want to see us; it wasn't glamorous but it paid the bills.") "We were in our own Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland movie - Hey, we can do it!" Then in the late 1980s, as parent surrogacy was emerging, The Washington Post sought her views on the subject - "Not that I was much of an expert." Next thing she knew, Hicks was a divorce lawyer. "It just happened."
As the years passed (she herself would divorce and re-marry), Hicks became known as a generous and active member of the divorce bar - "If I had a question I wasn't shy to call" other attorneys - and today she is a fixture in the same courthouses she launched her career in. Though now managing a successful practice (she's turned down partnerships with other firms in recent years), Hicks continues to try many cases. A self-confessed "work-out nut," the high-energy Hicks has made time recently for other activities, including skiing and the arts. She and her husband, Bruce Titus, live in Vienna, Va.